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
  • Ryan

    Well Mark, judging by your use of the past tense your father is already dead. There is no real way to know. My guess is he probably was Bipolar, if his symptoms were only JUST the Bipolar then that’s probably all he had.

    I also have an allergy to caffeine. I have been an unfortunate sufferer of it for about 6 years. My dad did this thing wherein he fed me coffee in my bottle as a baby. When I got a bit older I drank waayyy too many caffeinated beverages. Coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, everything. I think around the time I entered high school I started to have symptoms. I had some muscle tension, tiredness, mood problems, that sweaty buttcrack thing, digestive problems.

    The sweaty buttcrack thing is apparently quite rare but I think it was more than just “sweat”, you see, I would get picked on because I had this smell about me that made me smell like ass(perhaps something else was leaking out, I dunno). Also, I think having that smell on me all the time made me use to it but not anyone else. This made me extremely socially anxious since I was just waiting until the comments about what that “smell” was. It took some people awhile to really figure out who it was upon first meeting me. I got a real huge kick out of walking up and talking to random, complete strangers since they hadn’t figured out who it was yet. Seriously, it was a breathe of fresh air since I knew they didn’t know yet. Some people still ended up liking me anyways and they just tolerated it, some girls still ended up liking me too(I am NOT at all a bad looking guy), BUT I still felt so fucking insecure about myself since I felt so subpar, my self-esteem was crushed and I never made any moves even though I was at times given some very-not-subtle-hints(or just outright told by her friends). You can’t cloak yourself in anonymity in a relationship. They’d know all too well. I couldn’t get over that. I had a fear of intimacy even though I desperately craved it at the same time.

    Now, since this all started out when I was 13-14 years old I don’t think I had quite the self-awareness to figure out just what the problem was. When I did have the self-awareness I started being in self denial since I was addicted to the caffeine. Also, I had those problems for so long I figured that they wouldn’t go away. Learned helplessness I suppose.

    But I did limit my intake eventually….sort of. Occasionally I went back to it, symptoms got much better but they were still bad. When I got to college I had TONS of caffeine again because…it’s college and sometimes you need it. I started to have severe mood and acne problems in addition to the others. I got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It’s my sophomore year of college right now and since I read this site…for some strange reason, calling it an “allergy” in my mind helps a lot. Like, it’s an actual illness that I need to take care of, rather than some mystery thing the doctors can’t explain, also, I wasn’t aware that it could have been potentially causing the mood problems(I thought it was just causing the acne and the other symptoms which were more consistent) but I really really don’t want to go back to that deeply terrifying hellhole depression again so if not drinking caffeine could maybe stop that I think I have an extremely good incentive to stop it completely. I also didn’t know that chocolate and Guarana had caffeine in it. I didn’t know that I had to also need to take these things out of my diet, which could explain why I had lingering symptoms, no more chocolate bars and Sobe’s either. Damn.

    I haven’t had any chocolate or Sobe’s or caffeine for about a month, my skin has cleared up so wonderfully, I feel way less tense. My other symptoms have cleared up A LOT. I’m not sure what I am going to do with myself. I’m not sure if I’m as neurotic as I’ve long thought myself to be. I’m 20 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’m not completely clueless about how women work, I have six sisters and they have all been wondering for the longest time how a guy with six sisters could have trouble with women. They didn’t even think that my “health problems” had anything to do with it and I was too embarrassed to talk about it with them. No good opportunities have passed me by yet(spent half the time on this detox on winter vacation) but I’m not sure how I will react when an opportunity does present itself. I’ve had too much unrequited love so I’d really like to stop that. I’m not sure what the requited kind is like and I am really fucking curious.

  • Mike

    Whenever I drink a latte, especially the kind from Krispy Kreme donuts my skin breaks out right below the corners of my mouth. It is extremely painful because it feels more like a chemical burn, like an acid burn, stings bad. I give up coffee it goes away. Months later I have a latte and it comes right back. Tested again and again. Caffiene most definently aggrivates the body. I have the same reaction with chocolate however it is not as intense as coffee.

  • kurt

    Kurt from November 3rd here. The two month period has now passed and I am completely free from all symptoms. Incredible.

    If you have symptoms of unknown origin related to anxiety, a general feeling of unwellness, or skin problems, I strongly recommend ditching the coffee cold turkey!

  • Theresa

    Great Job Kurt, Keep it up!. It has now been 15 weeks since I gave up coffee. I am almost back to normal. My scalp has just a bit of pink. Before I gave up coffee my scalp looked like it had 3rd degree burns. My scalp was in critical condition. It was dark red and purple and looked like it was on fire. I had open sores all over the top on my head. The serum would seep constantly. It was horrible. I stopped going to doctors, they could not help me anyway. To everyone out there the coffee is not worth destroying your health.

  • Tobias

    25 year old guy, I also get quite noticeable symptoms from coffee. Neck tension, feeling wiggly and dizzy, loaded up with anxiety. Irritated stomach. Dandruff gets bad aswell.

    I once tried cutting it cold turkey but found it too hard, even though I actually went completely without it for 28 days I then relapsed strongly with 6-cup strong espressos every day.

    Now I drink just one small cup of instant coffee every morning. It’s so little that i do hardly have any symptoms from it, but not as good as being completely off.

    Note to those giving up on this rat poison or cutting it down – For me, I didn’t have any real noticeable results before 14 days after quitting. So don’t give up on ditching it if results arent immediate.

  • Saleh

    I’m having one of these so called panic effects now after drinking a cup of coffe from costa before couple of hours. My symptoms in brief
    1. Coughing low
    2. My body is in shock state
    3. Can’t concentrate
    4. Dizziness
    5. Fatigue
    6. Cant sleep
    7. Sitting in this forum and complaining
    8. I will never drink cofe again.
    9. Hate you cofe
    10. I don’t know why I’m still writing.
    See you guys wish you all good luck and good health

  • Acid Rain

    I’ve had no problems with coffee ever before until last year or so. I used to drink coffee during exams and when I needed to burn the midnight oil during busy times in school but now I drink just 1 cup and I get dizzy as hell.

    That leads me to not being able to focus too well and I start feeling the urge to eat something sweet or just munch on anything that has a lot of carbs in it. Really wierd I tell ya. This sucks because now if I get drowsy/sleepy during schoolwork I can’t drink coffee anymore since it’ll make things worse. I’ve been using caffeine pills sparingly as well and they have the same effect on me now. REALLY, really sucks!

  • Beverly

    I was probably born with a hypersensitivity to caffeine. Was made aware at age 14 when I took several “NoDose” tablets to stay awake to study all night for an exam. I was very sick for my exam.

    I cannot drink coffee or coke beverages – and no black tea that has been steeped over 1 second. I do drink green tea using 1 pint water to 1 tea bag, and sip it slowly.

    1st symptoms are cold sweats and then heart palpitations. Also feel dizzyness and nausea.

    I am the only one in my family with this sensitivity.

  • Kate

    I just wanted to add that Chocolate does contain caffeine as well! I had horrible depression, choking sensations,Angoraphobia, heart palpitations and a terrible delusion once where I was convinced my husband was not real and a complete figment of my imagination, and having realized that, that I would have to face the world alone. It was AWFUL! I have quit any forms of caffeine since finding out about the allergy, and have since fully recovered. On occasion I still get anxiety, but that runs in the family, and it is not NEARLY as bad as it used to be! I can deal with it now! 😀

  • Wayne

    DECAF has same effect now.. this blows!! I figured out about 8 years ago that I was allergic to caffeine after self diagnoses… I worked like a dog for about 4 years (18 to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week) and my diet consisted predominantly of cigarretes and coffee (especially that nasty vending machine stuff). After speaking to my doctor he said that I was probably stressed with all of the work.. I told him I loved the work and did not feel at all stressed but the hives were making me stressed. He prescribed me with some tablets so I started taking them.. a week later I went back in because I felt so lethargic all the time. He told me that it was probably the anti depresants so he offered to give me some other tablets that bought me back up! I thought ‘You wanker… I told you I was not stressed and you gave me anti depressants’. At this point I thought screw this, threw away all of the tablets and let my body get rid of it naturally. Within a week I was back to feeling normal except for the hives. The hives were typically on the wrist, back of the knee joint and shins… they got progressively worse and then the itchy scalp started followed by lots of hard itchy bumps all over my head especially on the back and sides.

    It became so intolerable I decided to start cutting things out.. first came all dairy. I love to drink milk but I stayed away from it all. Two weeks later I had no change.. next came all caffeine and within 2 weeks I started to feel much better. For the last 8 years I have been caffeine and itch free! That is until 2 weeks ago.. I discovered that they actually made decaf coffee and I have been drinking it fine for about 6 years with no problems. Typically one cup a day, I don’t drink soda but maybe one can every 2 or 3 months and then I always make sure it is decaf.

    I just took a project that lets me work from home so I pop the coffee machine on in the morning and blissfully work my way through the day and a jug of decaf coffee… and now they are back!! I’ve had 5 hours of sleep and woke up all itcy.. hot girlfriend is in bed asleep and I am sat here writing this at 6am feeling miserable staring at my coffee machine thinking I need to take a hammer and smash it up. I love the taste of coffee, but I love my lazy sunday mornings more. Right now I am 3 days without ANY decaf coffee and drinking plenty of water… and my point to this is that if you are having any of these symptoms then stop caffeine altogether including decaf (coffee, chocolate, tea, most soda’s) and give it a month. If it clears up then go ahead and grab a cup of decaf if you must, but in moderation. As for me I am done.. no more coffee including decaf ever again! I hope the itchy leaves me soon, talking about it is making it worse so cheerio and best of luck 🙂

  • Justin Time

    Interesting allergy(?) which I think is related to caffeine or something coffee. I know that I get arrhythmia and tachycardia but this is new. If the caffeine is in one of those addictive iced coffee chiller thingies I seem to get itchy fingers and thumb where the cold glass was held and swelling to those same digits. Anyone else experienced this? Interesting. Obviously to do with peripheral circulation (venous probably). Wierd.

  • Misty

    I am glad I have read these posts. I have been having body twitching for several months now, and headaches that come and go,that I just know are caffene related. I have had a inner nagging telling me my problems stems from coffee and to get off of it. I only had half a cup this morning and almost right after I started to get a pain on the side of my head. I’ve noticed the twitches I have in my body are worse on some days than others depending on how much coffee I have been drinking. I will definitly have to find some other means in the morning to substitute for it. I also have some exzema which may be related and sometimes feel pain and needles in my body.

  • I think i have an allergy to caffeine as well. I have symptoms #2,3,4,6 and 19. Also unable to sleep for 24 hours after ingesting. This is getting worse as the years go by, now decaf is bothering me………oh lord i love my coffee…..anyone know how to fix this problem?

  • Theresa

    I have been off of coffee for thirty one weeks. I do not miss it anymore. It took many weeks for me to undo all the damage the caffine, sugar and cream did to my body. I still have problems with my skin and scalp but I now know it has to do with eating sugar and products with caffine. It affected my liver and my system does not detox it like it should. I racked my brain and all of this nonsense started three years ago (November 2008) when I came down with strep throat and my doc gave me antibotics which I took for over a week. After this incident I was sick every week which seemed like a two or three day flu. After I started drinking the Dunkin donuts grind coffee this health problem affected me full force. I was so ill and thought I was dying at one point. Three weeks ago I finally went to a health phychic who told me I was suffering from Candida throughout my body. She asked me if my doctor ever mentioned it. I told her many doctors prescrible antibotics over and over to get rid of my scalp and body rashes. She told me that is the reason my body is suffering so much. The Candida, coffee, sugars and yeast laden products are destroying my body and that is why I cannot heal properly. She told me to remove as much sugar from my diet as possible along with other foods that feed candida. She told me I needed to kill the bad yeast infections and allow the proper good yeast to take over. She said that three years of antibotics the doctors told me to take could have been my death. Now I understand when I eat sugar and candy my body breaks out severly. When I lived on coffe, cream and sugar I broke out severly. I have been on a candida diet now for three weeks and I feel almost normal again. Like I said alot of damage have been done to my body because of my lack of knowledge about caffine, antibiotics, sugars, etc. My doctors should have informed me of the affects of antibotics and should have checked for it when I was so sick. Yes a phychic did tell me and I confirmed it with a new physician. Fifteen doctors and several thousand dollars later I finally find relief.

  • Pete

    I have been drinking soda and coffee a lot and over the years I have had very bad runny nose and sneezing attacks. I thought this was common seasonal allergies, but it seems like with increased caffeine the issues get worse. My eyes water and nose itches like crazy.

    I have even had issues where food would get stuck in my throat and I would have a panic attack which would force me to make myself vomit. I believe this is another reaction.

    I am done with soda and coffee, I can’t deal with these issues anymore.

    The soda companies don’t want to acknowledge any issues because they want to keep making money and the medical community is better off treating all the symptoms that telling the public to avoid caffeine.

  • FATIMA

    Effectivement j’ai une allergie cutanée au caféine,J’ai éruptions horrible sur tout mon corps même mon visage alors j’ai décidé d’arrêter le café pour quelque temps et voir le resultats.
    (Actually I have a skin allergy to caffeine, I have horrible rash all over my body even my face so I decided to stop for coffee sometime and see the results.)

  • Patty

    I have many of the symptoms listed here, but I’ll try the organic coffee as one reader suggested.

    One of my symptoms is very odd! I get a “film” on my scalp – it seems to be from oil production. I feel like the caffeine speeds up oil production, which causes this film as well as my skin to break out some.

    Other symptoms which bother me more are panic attacks and shortness of breath, insomnia, and irritability. I notice that the symptoms are less or non-existent if I skip a day or two of regular coffee.

  • SOUPS

    I believe I have a caffeine allergy or intolerance that developed suddenly, I cut out the caffeine but still have occasional issues. Besides chocolate, tea, coffee, energy drinks, and sodas; what else contains caffeine? I have read that red wine and vanilla can have traces of caffeine, is that true? Please list all things that contain caffeine, as this ailment is ruining my life!

  • gaz

    I have never drank more than one cup of coffee a day. I slowly started drinking iced tea with saccharin. I drink about 2 to 3 McDs ice teas a day (about 32oz or more). I have had a cough since nov. (doc can’t figure it out) I was wondering if the tea, saccharin or the caffine could be doing this? I never knew there was such an allergy. I’v noticed it gets worst with diet soda with caffine too. We have rulled out Gerd …I’v been on allergy meds and nasal stuff and inhaler nothing is working. Has anyone had this same thing?

  • Screwyoucaffeine

    What a great website to find! I truly want to thank whoever started this.I have been hospitalized twice his irregular blood pressure and heart beat. The first time the doctor said I had a heart arrhythmia and there was nothing I could do about it. The second time a different doctor advised it could be caffeine. So I cut caffeine out of my diet for a week (which sucks but isn’t bad after awhile) and now I realize it was likely affecting my mood as well. Before reading this blog I posted on FB yesterday what an amazing week I was having, I just haven’t felt this peaceful and happy for years. I just felt amazing. Then one night I ate chocolate, it was my bday and I seriously binged haha. I then went to bed and woke up at 4am and my heartbeat was as if I was running a marathon. That was it, I knew it was the caffeine. So screw you caffeine! Friends off! And oddly enough I found out a friend of a friend has the EXACT same thing.

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.