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
  • Mel Maxx

    I said I would update in a few weeks. I ave been caffeine free for 3 weeks tomorrow and guess what no episodes or problems except a headache which has subsided. I crave coffee at least once or twice a week but the effects outweigh. I found caffeine free Mt.Dew 🙂 and drink more water.

    Thanks again everyone!

  • Melissa Ramos

    Hi…I have experienced horrific symptoms for the past 7 years as I fight the caffeine battle.I started drinking it heavily about 8 years ago while teaching preschool. my symptoms were: extreme fatigue to the point where I couldn’t hold my body up, extreme muscle soreness and weakness ( I am now a certified Personal Trainer and I perform Olympic Weightlifting), stomach upset and horrible bloating, nausea, brain fog, blurred vision, severe panic attacks, heart palpitations, etc. I was able to quit off and on for a few years with success. It’s hard to believe that this one tiny beverage could cause such chaos. I started back up on it last year, and I am like a crackhead. My symptoms have worsened.I now can add: paranoia, depression, forgetfulness, apathy, horrible cramps during my cycle, breast tenderness, interstitia cystitis, severe muscular aches and pain, especially my neck, etc. I thought I had Lyme Disease I was so sick. No one believes me when I say I’m allergic to caffeine, and I just can’t seem to quit. If I go 1-4 days without it, I am barely functional, but when i have it, I have these horrible symptoms. I am eating all organic, free range chicken/eggs/beef, raw, spirulina, probiotics, etc, and it only seems to help a little. aggghhh!

  • Melissa Ramos

    I forgot to mention: low body temperature, unless it’s abov 80 outside I’m freezing, trembling, weak bladder, low blood pressure (I get light headed.) I’ve had every test known to man performed, and I have a clean bill of health, so I guess I know the solution…QUIT THE CAFFEINE! help!!!

  • Garden Lady

    At the age of 66, I began to wonder whether my daily suffering from shortness of breath, fatigue and painful indigestion might be caused by the one 12-oz cup of coffee I had each day. The problem, which has increased over time, was causing me concern as well as discomfort. I’m in relatively good health and not overweight. We eat our own organically grown vegetables, herbs and fruit, use whole grains and buy our eggs from a woman who has a few laying hens. To test my suspicion I stopped drinking coffee four days ago. The day after stopping, my usual shortness of breath in the morning did not kick in; I was breathing freely. Secondly my fatigue did not kick in as it usually did in the later morning, which may have been a result of not being able to breathe properly. Lastly, my painful indigestion did not occur. I’m hoping I have finally hit on the cause of my problem and that I’ll continue to feel as good as I have the past four days since quitting coffee. It may not entirely be the coffee that was causing the problem, it might be the chemicals/pesticides used in growing the coffee or the way it’s processed, but whatever it is I’m no longer drinking coffee. I am a tea drinker, but since stopping coffee I notice no problems after drinking a cup of tea.

    Live and learn as is said.

  • Chris

    Thinking I might have developed a caffeine allergy as well. Mine seems kindof mild compared to some here though.. I used to drink 2-4 liters of soda per day for probably 15 years. I never had any of the above symptoms others have reported really except acne sometimes. Had migraines, but I’ve had those since I was a little kid.

    I quit soda cold turkey about 4 months ago. Now it’s gatorade. 😉 Personal choice, though I figured if I kept ther soda going it would lead to diabetes eventually.

    For the past 4 or 5 weeks though, I’ve been getting mild cases of hives. Usually burning ears or scalp itching. Had the little gland inside the jawbone on the right side swell up a bit last week and start hurting. I knew I was having an allergic reaction to something but for the life of me I can’t figure out what. Never really been allergic to anything before.

    On this past Friday night, I broke out in hives over 70% of my body. Holy crap that will drive a person insane. Benedryll and Claritin had zero effect on it. By saturday night it was only covering around 50% of my body, but it kept moving. It’d be on my back, then my chest, then my legs, etc, etc. My hands were twitching and shaking from trying to not itch.

    I’ve scrambled my brain since trying to think of what I could have come into contact with that I could be allergic to. The only thing I can think of that I did out of the ordinary was have a 1 liter pepsi on thursday. I’d never even heard of a caffeine allergy before, but it does kindof make sense. I’ve been eating chocolate off and on since I quit drinking soda, and have had a small cup of coffee here and there. This would explain the minor reactions I’ve been having.

    Anyway, I’m mostly clear of the hives at the moment, and no caffeine since thursday. Assuming I stay clear, this weekend I’m going to down another liter pepsi and see if that kicks off a reaction again. If so I’ll have my confirmation. If not I guess the search continues. 🙂

  • TINA COOPER

    I drink so much coffee on a day to day basis and it doesn’t keep me awake just puts me to sleep. I get so tired that I just pass out if I’m sat down. also lack of concentration, head aches, always thirsty, funny tummy sometimes, grumpy and itching. think I will try and cut it out to see if it gets better.

  • Chris

    Just an update. 🙂

    Confirmed my caffeine allergy this weekend. Took a couple no-doz around 4 yesterday. Nothing for a couple hours so I took another. Nothing for a couple more hours so I took another. 800mg altogether. Wanted to make dang sure if it was or wasn’t the caffeine. ;

    Anyway, around 10 last night I started the itching I’ve been dealing with for weeks. Not the severe full body hive reaction, just minor itching. So looks like my alergy isn’t severe (yet), but it’s definately the caffeine.

    Next weekend I’m gonna eat a couple hershey bars and see if that will trigger a reaction. I can deal with no soda or coffee, but no chocolate would really suck. 🙂 I like having a snickers or something occasionally.

  • Stephen Clarke

    After several months, I only figured out now that caffine sets of the severe itching on my neck and arms, which i thought was eczema. and the red scaley hives looking thing all over my back, i got told by the doctor was a fungal disease, and all this time, it was all the red bull and coffee/tea i drink daily, dors anyone know if i should be taking presciption drugs for this allergy to caffine, or just go wifout caffine fom now on, and see if my skin looking disorders heal themselves?

  • Ayesha

    I’ve been having several of these symptoms for the past two years. My first panic attack was triggered by a high dose of caffeine in my system (drank coke all day). My doctor gave me Alprazolam for anxiety which helped a little but made me extremely drowsy. I had given up Tea, Coffee and Soda since then and I got better! But recently I started drinking Coke/Pepsi, which is why I think these symptoms are back: Severe itchiness in my nose, throat, mouth, eyes and ears, hives, jitters, shortness of breath, delusions, vision blurriness, non focus, flu like symptoms. I’ve realized I get hives even if I have chocolate, inside my mouth and ears and outside around my lips. So once again I have to give up everything containing caffeine.

    If you can also make a list of things containing caffeine, it would be helpful for us unfortunates. I only avoid these 4: Coffee, Tea, Coke/Pepsi, Chocolate.

  • Ayesha

    Ok so I browsed through this website. Excellent! It has everything a person should know about caffeine!:)

  • Thommy

    Hello and thank you for this post. My symptoms from drinking coffe is: Anxiety and panic attacks, Can’t focus or concentrate,Fatigue, Dizziness, Depression, Numbness in face, hands, or feet, Muscle pain, Vision problems. I started having a few of these symptoms in 1998, then it got worse by time. And by 2005 my allergy was fully developed. If i have 1 mug of coffee just 1, i will feel ill for about 36 – to 48 hours. It got so bad at one time that, i could not even walk, because of dizziness and muscle cramps. My panic attacks was also triggered by drinking coffee after heavy alcohol consumation, a.k.a a hangover. I switched to green tea, wich is an antioxidant and hydrating beverage and has helped me alot. But if you can i recommend you get off anything containing coffein for good. Coffeine itself is a poison and i read in a science magazine that if you drink 100 cups of coffee you will die. I also smoke, and id rather put only 1 poison in my body than 2. Well thats my story. Thank you for this page. Be well and stay safe. Sorry for my bad english also, english is my 3rd language 😉

  • Dianne O’Brian

    Can anyone give me some feedback on this: I have numbness and burning in my feet and have had it off and on (mostly on) for years. Am on 450mg of Lyrica daily~keeps the symptoms down. Have been to EVERY type of medical doc, acupuncturist, naturopath ……… I am so outdone with all of this. Now I am wondering if it is simply a caffiene allergy! I have a 16oz. iced coffee almost daily. Your diagnosis, please!

  • Robyn

    The luscious liquid zaps me too. I have a gastrointestinal reaction (bloating, diarrhea). I used to drink 2 to 3 lattes each day, especially since having children 5 years ago. But now I cannot tolerate any caffeine, not even tea. When I finally stopped drinking coffee for a period I noticed that my stomach which normally looked like I was still 5 months pregnant, went away. I’m a thin person so it was quite noticeable. My son often innocently patted my tummy and asked “when is the baby coming mommy?” Recently I have developed a bleeding reaction in addition to the above. I also have problems with fatigue and with being glued to the bed after a solid nights sleep. I am celiac too, but I have had this for 20 years and have it well under control.

    I am heartened to read others’ stories of not being able to give up their favourite elixir. Even with the terrible scare the blood gave me, I still have tried “just one more cup, just to see, maybe this time it’ll be okay,” I feel like one of those people you heard about years ago who lied in their hospital beds smoking a cigarette after having a leg amputated from Gangrene due to their tobacco habit.

    I am surprised I don’t read more anecdotes with the GI symptom here. I often have heard others say that caffeine “gets them going” or they “need the bathroom”.

    Interestingly, my sister has an adverse reaction to coffee also, but it is more consistent with the panic attack type reactions. She avoids the substance completely, but can tolerate tea.

    This post has been great to read through. Some of the comments made me laugh and cry with the comfort of the stories (e.g., x-man x-caffeinated, Melissa Ramos). Thank you.

  • Reena

    Thank you, I have had severe itching for the last month. I could not figure out what the heck was wrong with me. There are no rashes, expect when I start scratching so much and they go away when i stop, and come right back when i need to scratch again. I am 40 years old and never been a caffiene drinker since I was 18 years old. Just started drinking Red Bull two months ago. I have been consuming 2 or more a day. I am going to stop the Red Bull today and I hope this itching goes away, cuz its driving me crazy and I want my nice skin back.

  • Celiac

    I too am now having a reaction to caffeine, however, mine is stemmed from uncontrolled Celiac Disease. It is the full explanation for the intolerance/allergies to many foods, peripheral neuropathy (tingling of hands and feet) and heightened “anxiety” due to malabsorption of essential vitamins such as Vitamin D, B6 and B12. As for itching – I will scratch until my ears bleed. Another symptom of Celiac – eczema or Dermititis herpitiformis aka skin rashes. Look further into it if cutting the caffeine out doesn’t stop the issues.

  • Scott James

    I have been drinking coffee for the last 10 years-i like very strong blends-and recently after a new assignemnt at work ive been drinking about 2 pots a day. I noticed that i was expriencing really bad itching and ocassionaly hives on my arms back and stamach. I thought it was the laundry detergent, then the shower soap…Then i looked to what i was eating and drinking and i wondered about my increase in my coffee consumption but wrote it off. Until I came to this site!! The first line of symptoms-hives, rashes sever itching. I feel bad since I love coffee so much but I know now what the itching is all about and need to limit my intake. Thanks for the info!! Scott

  • Heather

    I am so sure now I have a caffeine allergy.
    sore ichy eyes,short of breath,stuffy nose and a cough.
    It is only when I drink coffee.
    My heart also races,and I get real bad reflux.
    I am going to take a few days off work,to get off this addiction.

  • amy

    is Melissa Ramos near toronto?(top above comment)finally someone who understands my symptoms. I know coffee is hell and it is hard to get people to believe me.write me. I am having a hard time quiting, i quit for seven days an now at work i just had one again. I feel like a crackhead.help!coffee support group.

  • tinusz

    Hello everyone,
    3 Years ago I had a lot of stress. I hated the fact that I had an office job and had to sit on my ass the whole day.
    I was drinking 6 cups a coffee a day. For no reason i was getting extremly tired. After a small change in my live I got a panick Attack. I had to quit my job (thank God). But the jittery and fatique moments stayed. A couple of months a go I quit my coffee in take and started to drink Green thea. I felt a little better.
    But still had some fatique and soms jitters every now and then.
    Last week I found out that Green Thea also contains Caffein, so i quit every source of Caffeine… Than it happend….
    At first I got extremly drowsy and tired. I lost al tension in my muscles and even got diarrhea, i went to bet at 9 ore 10 o clock beceaus of the tiredness.
    Now I’m 7 days further and feel reborn. Calm, no tension or palpitations. I sleep like a stinking baby and wake up refreshed with out the morning jitters.
    I’m not sure jet but I really think that the caffein makes me crazy en tired.

  • katie

    I’ve just had a major caffine reaction – panic feeling, inability to breathe properely, heart racing/palpitations, dinniness and weakness. I sort of felt like I might die! This was 2-3 hours after a fairly strong coffee, and took a couple of hours to subside.
    It’s my first coffee in about 3 weeks, as I picked up a bad gastro bug (maybe gardia?) in southe east asia – which I’ve been treated for and I’m getting better.
    I am used to consuming 1-2 cups per day with no trouble (although I may have suffered from some reflux/panic in the past), but I think my system is so wiped out from the bug, that I can’t cope with caffine anymore. Has anyone else experienced anything like this after a bug?

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.