Aw, Stop You’re Making Me Blush: The Asian Flush Syndrome

It’s not a sun burn, it’s the Asian flush syndrome!

You’re enjoying the one or two or six beers at your friends’ house party and all of a sudden you can feel your face pulsating. Is it just you or is it getting a little hot in here?

You touch your face and it’s penetrating heat like stove coils and it’s getting harder to breathe. You step into the bathroom and your eyes meet with a rash infested tomato in the mirror.

My experience with the embarrassing Asian flush syndrome started with a fear that I needed an appointment with Dr. House A.S.A.P., and continues to this day with annoyance and an accepting shrug.

From WebMD to the doctor’s office, I know my Asian flush like the back of my hand.

Knowing the symptoms, precautions, and how to handle Asian flush is frustrating to decipher at first, but like most bodily grievances, you figure out how to deal.

No, I’m not sun-burnt you inebriated fool.


For me, and I assume most anyone who is randomly come over with its presence, has no idea they have the unique genetic makeup of the syndrome.

Asian flush syndrome is when your stomach lacks the specific enzymes most drinkers have to steadily and normally break down alcohol. So, in consequence, allergy-like symptoms appear.


The first time I became acquainted with my nuisance, I wasn’t even drunk. It was close to my second whiskey mixed drink when I began to feel hot, and not because the AC wasn’t on.

It was the kind of heat as if I just went on a run. My blood felt like a heavy current, and my heart matched its pace. I became a tinge lightheaded.

I acknowledged my strange feelings and went into the bathroom. What I saw staring back at me was concerning, and that’s an understatement.

From my forehead to my chest was a blotchy rash, specifically extenuating my facial blemishes. Of course, my first reaction was worry and how unattractive I looked.


It took my mother and I endless research to figure out what it was. Endless, because she thought I was just drinking too much too fast, which I had, and because I didn’t think it would keep happening until I had a compilation of worry-stricken photos.

Wikipedia taught us the definition of what it could be, but we’re skeptical people, so it wasn’t until we took a visit to a specialist who concluded that my blacking out meant, yes, stop drinking, you may have an alcohol allergy.

He even prescribed me EpiPens that I kept in my medicine drawer at school, as far away from my drinking as ironically possible. But only once I felt as if I needed to use one.

But I’m Italian

I’ve always pondered why in all people I had Asian flush. I am nowhere near of Asian descent. I was however comforted by the hypothesis that the syndrome includes Mediterranean folk, like my Italian kin.

It’s a burden more than a unique quality. But in college, the shade of strobe lights and no lights was comforting.

Every time that symptoms showed, no one ever mentioned it to me. Not even a, “Hey, your face is red.” Especially in the early days, I would have appreciated the acknowledgement.

Usually then, I in turn, bring it to attention myself. It addresses the elephant in the conversation and I’m sure we both feel better about it after.

The only way people respond is, “Don’t worry, it’s not that noticeable. It just looks like you have really bad sunburn.” Thanks.

Over time, in which my body grew accustomed to liquors in large quantities, my Asian flush has subsided.

It still comes full force once in a blue moon, but I’ve learned how to manage it, suppress it as best I can, and how to avoid it.


My Asian flush appears circumstantially. Depending on how much I have had to drink, to how fast I threw them back, and whether I was drinking on an empty stomach, my face will light up.

tumblr_ncczwav2C31tw2uaio1_500My body temperature and the room temperature are also factors. My symptoms do indeed fizzle out after what I’ve calculated to be thirty minutes.

But in the meantime, I try to slow down and press my face against my cold drink until I cool down.

The honest truth, as much as you want to stay ignorant of it, is that you should be mindful and careful with Asian flush syndrome.

It’s a fickle condition to deal with, and everyone who has it doesn’t always show or react to the same symptoms.

So if you find that Asian flush is making you blush, accept it, work with it, and keep your eyes open for others who also feel the burn.

Featured Image: Bigstock


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