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4 often-asked questions about alcohol

Glasses of different colored beers lined up in a row.

May 21, 2021—With just about any activity, there are risks. And that includes drinking alcohol. Learning all you can about alcohol may help you avoid some of its risks. What follows are four common questions many people have about alcohol. The answers just might surprise—and educate—you.

1. Can you be allergic to alcohol?

Answer: While rare, it does happen, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to alcohol include red, itchy eyes; a stuffy nose; upset stomach; and even trouble breathing. People can be allergic to natural ingredients in the alcohol, like barley or yeast, or to added ingredients, like egg whites or preservatives.

2. What effect does caffeine have on alcohol?

Answer: Caffeine may make someone who's been drinking feel more alert, but it won't help that person sober up faster. That's because caffeine doesn't affect how the body metabolizes alcohol. In a curious twist, mixing alcohol and caffeine can actually be risky, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason? A caffeine buzz can mask the effects of alcohol. As a result, people might drink more than they had planned to and become impaired. That could lead to alcohol harms, such as accidents and risky behaviors.

3. Will alcohol help me sleep?

Answer: Alcohol may make you fall asleep more quickly, but it won't help you get a good night's rest. In fact, it can actually cause sleep troubles. For instance, alcohol can cause you to wake up later in the night. As a result, your sleep will not be restorative. Over time, relying on a nightcap can also mess with deep sleep, a sleep stage that you need to feel refreshed. The bottom line: Don't use alcohol to fall asleep. Instead, check out these tips for sleeping better.

4. How long does alcohol stay in the system?

Answer: The liver processes roughly one alcoholic drink per hour. But what equals one drink of alcohol? A standard drink of alcohol is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer.
  • 5 ounces of wine.
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirts, such as whiskey, vodka and gin.

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