Caffeine Allergy: Top 20 Symptoms

Allergic to caffeine? It seems like you aren’t alone as hundreds of people have now testified to strange reactions experienced after caffeine consumption.
Headache

This article has been compiled from anecdotal evidence. Some people do not metabolize caffeine as well as others. Others are also sensitive to adrenalin. It pays to know your limits with caffeine. If you suspect that caffeine is causing problems, this can be tested by eliminating it from the diet.

Some time ago, we published a short post about the possibility of allergic reactions to caffeine.

That post received hundreds of comments from those who claimed to have experienced some type of adverse reaction to caffeine.

We have painstakingly sifted through all those comments, compiling the top 20 caffeine allergic reactions in order from most common to least common.

In most cases these symptoms were reported after only having a little to moderate amount of caffeine through coffee, tea, soda and/or energy drinks.

Most Common Allergic Reactions to Caffeine

  1. Skin problems such as hives, eczema, rashes, acne, severe itching
  2. Headaches or migraines
  3. Anxiety and panic attacks
  4. Can’t focus or concentrate
  5. Tongue, glands, or throat swelling
  6. Heart racing or palpitations
  7. Angry, irritable, bad mood
  8. Fatigue
  9. Dizziness
  10. Extreme jitters
  11. Chest Pain
  12. Depression
  13. Numbness in face, hands, or feet
  14. Muscle pain
  15. Shortness of breath or tightness of chest
  16. Delusions or hallucinations
  17. Flu/ cold like symptoms
  18. Vision problems
  19. Cold sweats
  20. Eyes swollen shut
Need to quit caffeine? Get expert help here.

Is this Scientific Evidence?

At least one scientific study has shown that people can have anaphylactic reactions to caffeine and is confirmed by a skin prick test.1

There is evidence regarding the inability to process caffeine as some people lack the genes responsible for this or the genes aren’t being expressed as they should be. This allows caffeine to build up in a person’s body rather than being broken down properly. These people are described as hypersensitive to caffeine.2

The above data is entirely based on anecdotal evidence, so don’t take it as gospel or scientific, but rather consider these caffeine allergy symptoms as possible since they were reported by a large number of people. If a person suspects a caffeine allergy, he/she should cease caffeine consumption immediately and then assess as to whether it was indeed the caffeine. The symptoms should subside  after caffeine is eliminated.

Did you know that rutaecarpine can remove caffeine from your system faster? Find out how here.

There is a fine line between what would be called caffeine sensitivity and what would be called caffeine allergy, but overall we’re dealing with the body not being able to correctly process the caffeine molecule, so whether it’s called sensitivity or allergy is up for debate.

caffeine-allergy

Skin rashes are common.

Most people on the original article reported several of the above symptoms and some of the caffeine allergy symptoms were quite bizarre. The symptoms that were the strangest included itchy ears & anus suffered by one poor soul and a sweaty butt crack reported by another…

Caffeine allergy has also been linked to a form of ADD and dementia in adults. The claim is that caffeine induced anaphylaxis impairs people’s abilities to concentrate and remember things. (Src.)

Could It Be Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are essentially chemicals produced by fungi and they can produce all kinds of negative reactions when ingested by humans. A recent study3 from the University of Valencia in Spain found that commercially sold coffee is often contaminated with mycotoxins. They’ve identified 18 different mycotoxins that are commonly found in coffee and found that the levels in decaffeinated coffee are often higher than that of regular coffee.

If you have a reaction to coffee but not other caffeinated products, there’s a good chance that you are sensitive to mycotoxins and not the caffeine.

What To Do If You Are Suffering

  1. Explore our extensive Caffeine in Food database as well as our Caffeine in Beverages database in order to be aware of all the products that have caffeine listed as an ingredient along with the amount they contain.
  2. Eliminate these products from your diet. There may be a period of caffeine withdrawal where you actually feel worse.
  3. Assess whether your symptoms have disappeared. It may take up to 2 weeks for all of caffeine’s effects to wear off. 

Please note: A surprising number of products contain caffeine, and some have a lot more than what you think.

Even decaffeinated drinks still contain caffeine – although only a small amount such as decaf brewed coffee.

Education is best way to prevent an allergic reaction to caffeine.

Get Help Quitting Caffeine

Reduce your caffeine intake without pain and discomfort.

See our new 10-step plan
  • Mark

    Re: comments of greendesigner-I wonder if that’s what happened to my Dad. He kind of freaked out when I was a kid and had bipolar disorder most of his life. He drank coffee and smoked like crazy so I’m wondering, since it seems like I have this caffeine allergy, if he had the same thing and just never tried to give up coffee, maybe his bipolar symptoms would have gone away. It seems like I’m borderline biploar when I drink coffee, especially in large amounts, but I’m fine if I stay away from large amounts of caffeine.

  • Theresa

    It has now been three weeks since I have stopped drinking coffee (sugar & cream). The redness and swelling on my arms has gone away, my neck and check are not blistered, still somewhat pink. My hair is
    not falling out as much. I have a few strands falling out instead of a bunch. I figure an 1/8 of the amount is falling out compared to a bunch three weeks ago. My scalp is still red but not a bad when is was burning red and purple. I went to a dermatalogist today and she was angry with me because I was questioning my condition. She point blank told me that she could not help me. How sad! I told her I was doing fine curing myself, thank you very much.

    Folks try to do away with coffee, sugar (any kind) coffee cream. Pay attention as to what foods, drinks go into your mouth. We don’t really know if we are ingesting pesticides. I had two biopsies done today, I will let you all know in three/four weeks of the outcome. Until then I will not drink coffee and minimize sugar and let you know the progress of my skin condition. Maybe this information will help all of you. Take care.

  • Theresa

    October 31, 2010
    I finally got my results back from the biopsy. My doc said my results show lichenoid dermatitis on my scalp. She said my best bet is stopping all vitamins, medications, etc. going into my mouth. She also said something you are ingesting is causing these problems. I told her I gave up drinking Duncan Donuts coffee a month ago and since then alot of my problems have gone away. My scalp still has the redness on the top and thinning hair. My whole arms and chest have cleared up 100% in a months time. My scalp still has red lesions. A month ago my scalp was burning red and purple, horrible looking. It is not so bad now. She gave me antibiotics to take. I am still eating cereal in the morning (with milk and sugar). I am giving this up starting tomorrow morning. I have nothing left to omit except cereal, milk and sugar in the mornings. Everything else I eat is natural or nutritious, no junk food. I will resume my exercise this coming week, 20 minutes per day (walking). What I need to do is detox through sweating. I am sure I got alot of coffee in my poor body to sweat out.

  • Dave

    I started getting asthma in February of this year, the doctors attributed it to chronic sinusitis, (which may be caused by caffeine) of which i have been doing battle with for years now. I just had some severe food poisoning and totally cleared my body of everything, funny thing, my asthma went away, so i decided to start cutting out things from my regular diet once i could start eating again, caffeine being first, it has been about 9 days and I do not have any asthma symptoms, my anus area does not itch as much anymore, i do have a life long rash on my hands that seems to be a little better. I had a bit of a relapse when mt. biking yesterday, then realized the energy chews i consumed had caffeine in them, about 20mg, the asthma wasn’t near as bad as i have experienced and today i mt. biked again with no energy chews and feel great. I have also experienced swollen tongue and throat area, still to early to tell if this will stop my frequent headaches, cold fingers and toes. keeping my fingers crossed. kind of sucks I won’t be able to have coffee, but think i would rather breath !

  • kurt

    24-year old male here, have been battling with anxiety and depersonalization for years, as well as heavy dandruff/redness and bad skin flaking all over the body. So weird that my doctor never even MENTIONED anything about dumping the Java. I quit a week ago.Symptoms have already started subsiding heavily. I will however not do any judgements before a full two months have passed. But so far looks very promising.

  • KH

    Ummm i hope all you people who are complaining about not being able to drink soda and coffee and tea realize ALL these products come in caffine free. Some sodas are limited (like Caffine free Dr. Pepper is only sold in some states) but the most popular ones like Pepsi are.

  • Saff

    If i have caffeine I wake up in the middle of the night with extrem jitters my hole body shakes and I cant stop and Im frezzing but my body is burning up my heart is racing and i have to fight myself to try relax. The next day feels like a hangover my hubby was ready to take me to hospital the first time he seen me with the gitters because i get it so bad. I drink decafe but some time the coffee shop stuffs my order up and gives me normal coffee I all so drink gold coke no caffeine i had some last night with my bourbon but i woke with the gitters like i had caffeine I dont know what that was from.

  • Theresa

    Today, November 10, 2010, it has now been five full weeks since I gave up drinking coffee (Dunkin Donut grind). I have written about the hell I was going through not knowing it was the caffine that was killing me. I am 95% healthier and my skin has improved 100%. My scalp is getting healthier by the day, it is not purple/red anymore and my scalp is not burning. It felt as if it were on fire all the time and the itching was intense. I started drinking this brand of coffee in April 2008 and for over two and a half years my health, skin and hair went to hell. I have lost alot of hair but I am grateful I still have enough to make me look somewhat normal. I did not know it was the coffee making me sick. It took over two and a half years to create this damage and I understand it will take some time to undo the damage. Now five weeks later I am grateful my body has fought to restore itself. For those of you that have given up drinking coffee keep it up. Your body will truly appreciate you!

  • lebelle

    It has been very interesting reading all of the comments posted on this site.
    I too believe that I may have an allergy to caffeine.
    I used to drink 2 eight cup caraffes of coffee a day and not even realize it.I downsized to a 4 cup coffee maker so that I wouldn’t mindlessly drink it.
    Several years ago I developed intermittant Hives and itching.I get them all over my body and they dont seem to have a pattern.I have seen an allergist several times and he tells me I have “Idiopathic” hives which means that there is no Biological reason for them.He gave me a heavy dose of Allegra and also a prescription for prednisone.All of the skin tests and blood testing for allergies came back negative.I even was checked for celiac disease which was also negative.My hives have been very itchy and require a lot of benadryl/chlorphenramine etc.My hives and itching have interferred in my life a lot;they zap the energy right out of me and then I have a benadryl hangover cause I had to use antihistamine to relieve the itching.I have had to call in sick at work because I needed to take lots of antihistamine when Im having an outbreak.
    None of the Doctors have been able to help me either.I noticed too that I have hives from drinking tea as well as coffee.Bad thing is;”I love coffee”
    Im going to eliminate it and chocolate from my diet and also anything else with caffeine in it and see what happens. At this point I am desperate to feel better and not have to deal with the hive outbreaks as well.Will let you know what happens.
    I am not willing to live on prednisone the rest of my life either;I prefer to find the cause of my hives and eliminate the trigger. I really think I am on to something here.
    Thanks for all the comments and help.

  • lebelle

    someone posted that they drink decaf coffee.FYI,decaff is made with a chemical that they use in the dry cleaning business.they use the chemical to decaff the coffee.I cant remember the name of the chemical but it is factual.

  • lebelle

    My Hives look just like the picture of Hives posted on this website.NASTY and itchy.

  • John

    I have had an itchy rash on my face on and off for years. I recently put myself through a detox for two weeks, no booze, milk, coffee etc my rash was totally gone. Today my diet was exactly the same except for two cups of coffee. Just a few hours later my face broke out. By accident I think I found the problem and was amazed that others had the same reaction. I am in shock, I have seen plenty of doctors and none of them said caffeine could be the cause.

  • Chelsea

    I have been drinking a small cup of coffee everyday since I was 13 years old. At the age of 25, I began work at a coffee shop where I drank more caffeine than I ever had before. Now, after struggling with insomnia, TMJ, heart palpitations, joint swelling and stiffness, blurry vision, trouble concentrating, and extreme mood states, I am finally ready to quit caffeine. The hardest part for me is how few people take a caffeine allergy seriously so when i tell friends and others, ‘oh I don’t drink caffeine, I’m allergic to it…’ I feel like they don’t realize how serious it is. And yes, even after not drinking or eating ANY caffeine for two months if I have one cup of decaf coffee Im in pain for three days with a headache and insomnia.

    Love the stuff but must love my life and self more!

  • Thane johnson

    Small bumps with puss develop on thumbs, then fingers then toes. Unbelievable itching comes next thats worst at night and wakes me up constantly. Next comes post nasal drip and severe airway blockage and gaging. Next, my fingers and toes become open scabs, bloody and raw. Severe depression, irratability, sweating, and constant urinating top everything everything off to make coffee the most dangerous substance ever for me. Tested many times. Now won’t touch caffeine and feeling great. Just jealous of those who can drink espresso!

  • ted

    Thane- Your fingers and toes sounds just like scabies not caffeine allergy.. you really should check to make sure.. you can look here for scabies symptoms .

  • Your blog has excellent information. Caffeine is really dangerous. It affects an individual both physically and mentally. It’s worth to read and learn.

  • Theresa

    Hi everyone,

    It has now been nine weeks since I gave up coffee. My skin on my arms, chest, neck and face have cleared up 100 percent. My scalp has cleared up 80 percent. I have redness on the upper part of my scalp that I am having a problem with. I had two biopsys done and the doctor says I have Lichenoid dermatitis. The doctor said the Lichenoid is caused by somthing I ingested. I told her it was coffee/caffine. I don’t think she believed me. I am still taking antibiotics. The damage caused by drinkin the Dunkin Donuts coffee was horrible. I wish I would have had sense enough to give it up a long time ago. Today I am having a blood test done. I am anxious to see the results because I want to see where I am at now health wise (blood wise) compared to six months ago when I was in bad shape. My hair is still thinning out but not as bad as before.
    ** I have an appointment with a healer named Dean Kraft within a couple of weeks. After suffering for 2 years and seven months and just finding relief for the past nine weeks I need more help than I can give myself. I seriously hope to regrow my hair back and receive complete healing.

    If anyone wants to see before and after photos of what caffine did to me you are more than welcome to email me at ddtwm@yahoo.com. This may help some people to identify their problems. I will keep posting after my visit with Dean Kraft. Thanks.

  • Mike

    I wonder if this could be the cause of my itchyness. It’s only been recently that I started drinking alot of energy drinks, I was having 1 a day. Also I binge drink in the weekend and I mix cider with vodka and gurana (probably caffeine as well).

    Well I thought the energy drinks were bad for me but I was addicted to them, needed that boost in the morning. I do tend to stay up rather late during the week. (10.30pm would be an early night, usually getting up at 6.30 or 7).

    Recently I decided to kick the energy drinks and started drinking coffee instead. In the last few weeks I’ve started getting itchy everywhere and it sucks, no hives or anything, just really fucking itchy, during the day its not to bad; but when I’m in bed its pretty bad.

    So now I’m going to kick the coffee as well and see what happens. I hope that I don’t have to stop drinking as well, but if thats what it takes.

    Also I am a 21y/o male. (if that matters)

    tl dr: started drinking lots of energy drinks, then switched to coffee, now itchy.

  • ted

    @Mike, There are other chemicals in coffee besides caffeine. Maybe your allergic to the oils… just stick to energy drinks… there are many all natural ones out there.

  • Theresa

    Hi everyone. It has now been 11 weeks since I gave up coffe. Last week the Christmas celebrations started here in my office with a lot of goodies passed around. I ate more than my share of choclate mint bars and hot coco mix. The red bumps started showing up on my scalp again. It freaked me out and I started drinking lots of water to detox myself out. I am back to where I was before all the choclate treats. It has to be the caffine in the coffee and in everything else that is affecting me. ***For Mark, when I was at my worst I itched so severely is was unbearable. I would scratch my skin until I would bleed and I would continue scratching. I could not find relief. I felt as if I were bitten by thousands of mosquitos. It was horrible. Until I gave up all caffine then all the suffering stopped.

Last Modified: July 26, 2016

References

  • 1. Infante, S., Baeza, M. L., Calvo, M., De Barrio, M., Rubio, M., & Herrero, T. (2003). Anaphylaxis due to caffeine. Allergy, 58(7), 681-682. study link
  • 2.Hinrichs, R., Hunzelmann, N., Ritzkowsky, A., Zollner, T. M., Krieg, T., & Scharffetter‐Kochanek, K. (2002). Caffeine hypersensitivity. Allergy, 57(9), 859-860. study link
  • 3. García-Moraleja, A., Font, G., Mañes, J., & Ferrer, E. (2015). Simultaneous determination of mycotoxin in commercial coffee. Food Control, 57, 282-292.