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
  • Marilyn

    I have had Celiac’s Disease for many years. For many years, I had hives, diahrea, joint pain, inflamation at the site of every injury for extended periods of time, brain fog, and endless viruses and infections. With Celiac’s Disease, one must not eat anything containing Gliadin: Wheat, Oats, Barley, Spelt, Amaranth, Malt, Millet, and one other thing. Not eating that stuff (and soy) cured all of my problems in a few weeks.

    A couple years ago, I got hives again. Zyrtec is the only medication that controls hives for me.

    I had hives everyday, for almost two years, until I figured out that I am allegic to beans. All beans. Everytime the Zyrtec wore off, I had hives all over and a swollen face. It took three months for my body to “reset” after quiting eating beans. My doctor was right when he told me that it takes three months for one’s body to reset after stopping ingestion of an allergen.

    It should not have taken me two years to figure out that I was allergic to all beans as I knew I was allergic to soybeans. Eating soy caused symptoms similar to celiac’s symptoms: joint pain, muscle stiffness. Soy allergy is often present with Celiac’s Disease.

    I stopped drinking coffee and chocolate due to the bean allergy. I also stopped drinking tea because it made me feel awful.

    Recently, I have been getting hives again. I suspect that I am allergic to several more things and am trying to figure out what. I suspect mushrooms. I recently stopped eating corn but I don’t think that made any difference.

    I have been drinking Pepsi for my caffiene. Yesterday, I got hives after my morning Pepsi. I am pretty sure that I am allergic to caffiene. (By the way, Dr. Pepper and Mug Rootbeer put wheat -modified food starch – in their soda.) I don’t think there is wheat in Pepsi as my recent blood test did not show any antibodies to Gliadin so my celiac diet is/was perfect.

    One interesting thing I would like to share . . . Your RA factor can indicate inflamation from an allergy (also an infection or Rheumatoid Arthritus.) Before I stopped eating beans, my RA was 86. Below 16 is normal. After I stopped eating beans, my RA dropped to 39. (That is why I tried not eating corn.)

    Anyway, I think that my immune system is weakening as I get older. I will give up Pepsi and try eating mushrooms and corn again in a couple weeks (after the three months.)

    If you are unhappy that you are allergic to caffiene, compare yourself to me: Wheat and soy are in everything. So are beans. Good thing I can cook.

    Glad to read this site and learn that caffiene is an allergen that causes hives.

  • Jason Ross

    I am a really nice guy, who barely shows anger but today after drinking an amp energy drink i felt unusually angry, i began to think really nasty disturbing thoughts about strangers whom i didnt even know, i for some reason hated every person i saw and wished harm on them, i snapped at my girlfriend (which never happened before) and hung up in her face because she asked me to pick up bottles for my son. i was getting “pissed” over small situations, a man stared at me for 5 seconds and i was a few seconds away from hitting him( wish i was joking but im not). i went home and punched my wall a few times.. it really scared me how i was acting, and im never touching a energy drink again and i seek to get help :[

  • J

    Is it weird to develop an allergy to caffeine with no prior problems? A few months ago I started noticing it. Soda tea coffee chocolate all tighten my throat and glands in my neck I get flem and gunky eyes. If I ingest caffeine it usually starts to effect me about a half hour to hour afterwards. I’m pissed cuz I like me some coffee.

  • J

    Oh and itchy skin all over feel like my skin is crawling and intestinal problems

  • Sam

    Hi all –

    1. Marilyn. Cacao (chocolate) is not a bean. They’re seeds from the Malvacaeae family. Beans come from the Fabaceae family.

    Now, onto ME… (lol)

    I get migraines. I found they get better when I drop caffeine from my diet. I also notice itchy skin and itchy eyes when I ingest caffeine. It’s gotten worse lately. I think its an allergic reaction. This makes me sad.

    a) I love chocolate
    b) I love soda.
    c) I require caffeine sometimes to alleviate my migraines.

    Thanks for the article. Hope my comments help other sufferers.

  • Saria

    I was a regular coffee drinker up until a few years ago, all of a sudden I started feeling out of breath after drinking coffee, like there was an elephant sitting on my shoulders and my whole upper body felt tight and it was hard to breath deep. It’s bizarre how it just came out of nowhere! And sad too, I miss my coffee 🙁

  • Daniel

    Wow, good to know this info… I have been wondering whats been wrong with me for a while. I am a heavy coffee drinker, but it seems my blood pressure gets low, my throat tightens up slightly and some glads that seem to start hurting shortly after drinking coffee. I also seem to get patches of eczema.
    and lately my chest hurts a little. I’ve always gotten palpatations, but then again ive been pretty extreme with caffenated drinks for most of my life… I guess you can create an allergy from way too much exposure?

    I guess its time i hang up the caffiene 🙁 i love my coffee but i seem to be less able to tolerate large amounts of it than i used to.

  • Elizabeth

    In response to Liz (5/6/11)—-Same exact thing over here. I was never much of a coffee drinker—just and frapp every once in a while. I started drinking coffee mostly because my boyfriend enjoys his coffee so much. I have—for a while now, felt like a baby elephant is sitting on my chest. And, If I drink more than one cup I am up all night…(it’s 2:30am now). I have heavy feeling in chest, blurring of my vision and and shortness of breath…all heart test came back normal. Between 3 doctors not one of them ever suggested I stop the intake of caffeine. But I guess if I couldn’t put 2 and 2 together….why would I think they would??? For me, the caffeine ends now. Reading all of these comments I am sure I have at least a strong sensitivity, if not an allergy to coffee—not so much to caffeine, as soda, tea and chocolate do not have this same effect on me.

  • Jay

    Until I was 17, I had no issues with caffeine. Somewhat suddenly I started experiencing intense stomach cramps, diarrhea, and hot flashes after consuming caffeine. I’ve learned that certain things trigger symptoms more rapidly than others, but they don’t always seem to coincide with the amount of caffeine. The two things that ALWAYS cause a reaction are coffee and chocolate milk. I can normally drink a can of pepsi or coke without ill effects, but a 20 oz bottle is too much. I also seem to be affected less if I am very tired when I have caffeine.

  • Bekah

    I’ve experienced itchy ears as well, so don’t write that off as untrue. Everytime I drink something caffeinated my ears get itchy and for the longest time I couldn’t figure it out. So yeah, that actually happens.

  • Bob Cowley

    At age 70, and in good shape, I started breaking out in a red rash which lasts 5-6 hours. I have narrowed it down to coffee with caffein. When I drink some, by mistake, I break out in a red rash which starts at my wrists and moves up my arms , across my chest and down to my knees. Since I now drink coffee, soft drinks, tea ect. which is de-caffeinated, I don’t break out. What is the best, and fastest way to stop the iching and make the rash disappear? Thanks, Bob Cowley

  • Sammy Seville

    for over 2 years I’ve been trying to narrow down just what the heck has been killing me….I stopped drinking beer, stopped smoking weed, stopped eating eggs, stopped eating nuts…all kinds of things, except for…. caffeine…I’d have at least a few cups of coffee a week, plus dark chocolate nuggets from time to time and other goodies, but couldn’t figure out what was the cause of all my issues

    my symptoms were: rashes on my arms, the back of my legs, my neck, & my chest…all very itchy(especially at night)……other symptoms ranged from: fast heart beats, bad mood, sometimes loss of ambition to do fun things, eye gunk(very annoying), stuffy nose, a bit of coughing.

    about 2 weeks ago, I stopped the caffeine coffee, chocolate, and soda all together.

    the rashes are gone! the other symptoms are gone! I can’t believe it, I got my life back.

    I have had some decaf coffee with NO problems thus far.

    feels good to be normal again….and thank god it wasn’t the beer that was the cause…lol

  • Donna

    I am so glad that I found this forum and that their are so many people who are dealing with this caffeine allergy. I too, believe that I might be allergic to caffeine or at least coffee, even though I drink only 1 to 2 cups of organic coffee, along with half and half and sugar. I have almost all the symptoms listed on this website, except #6 and #16. I did quit a couple of months ago for 2 months but I went back to drinking this poison because I got emails from alternative doctors telling us how beneficial coffee is for certain health problems, though they do recommend drinking only black coffee. I can’t drink my coffee black so I am quitting this again for the 5th time. I also started drinking it again because I wasn’t sleeping any better and the ringing in my left ear wasn’t going away so I got discouraged and started drinking it again. Big mistake that was because when you are off of this for awhile and then go back to it, the symptoms come back worse than ever.

    For the last two days, I have had only one cup of coffee and substituting this with organic yerba mate. This morning is the worse I have felt, not with a headache but after drinking 1 cup, I feel like my head is too heavy for my body and the ringing in my left ear is worse and the glands in my neck are swollen and painful. It is also coats my tongue and makes my mouth so dry. The worse of this is the anger. After I drank this one cup of coffee I almost flew off the handle when I couldn’t get a website to download. I was freaking out and I do notice my anger more intense when I drink even one cup of this poison. I have little anger when I don’t drink this so either I am allergic to it or it is messing up my adrenals. Probably both. I also have celiac disease and have become so sensitive to so many foods and yet I have been on a gluten-free diet for 8 years or more. I also notice my right eye is puffy and blurry when I drink coffee or tea. It makes my joints hurt and the ankle I sprained and fractured a year ago is getting puffy and tender again. I don’t know if it is from the coffee or something else but I know it can be bad for someone who has rheumatoid arthritis because it causes inflammation. Being 60 doesn’t help either no matter how much organic foods you eat and as healthy as you can.

    I have read the book “Caffeine Blues” over and over again and I know the author tells you to avoid yerba mate because it does contain caffeine but I read on Guayaki’s website that many people who are allergic to caffeine or don’t do well with coffee and tea, have no problems with yerba mate. They say people who are trying to quit coffee to avoid the withdrawals do not suffer when they substitute yerba mate.

    I like yerba mate because it gives you the strength of coffee, health benefits of tea and euphoria of chocolate. I also don’t need to use half and half or sugar, only stevia and it is delicious. The caffeine in this doesn’t make you jittery like the caffeine in coffee, tea or chocolate so it is food for thought. I will keep you posted to let you know how I am doing with yerba mate.

    I hope this helps with someone who doesn’t want to suffer with the withdrawals of giving up coffee or tea.

  • Ron

    Hi all,
    Thanks for the comments, interesting I have always had headaches from caffiene, thou sucks, i enjoy the boost, i need but lately I have had acid reflux, which seem to be causing my throat to be super sinisitive, when clearing throat, its like i have to stop breating, because is so painfull, back in june 2011 it was so bad my throat was bleeding from coughing so much, the itch! or tickle! Grrrr! I enjoyed eating Dark cholocate! But I think I need to give it all up, can anyone relate! Hi Donna maybe I might try Yerba Mate! sounds like a Sailor 🙂 I’m currently taking Pantoprazole, strong PPI proton pump Inhibitor, or acid reflux. just google it, it will suggest food and beverages to avoid and of course caffiene is one of them, OK So now I can no longer comsume soda, cholocate and caffinated drink :p Better to have good health than suffer chronic pain and ailments, and doctors bills that are unnecessary! I’m glad our bodys communicate with us all we must do is listen. Blessing to you all seek the truth.

  • THUMPER

    I have narrowed it down now. Today all I had was a coffee and I have suffered from a headache for 6 hours and now my throat and tongue is reacting
    very scary. I hope I survive this as I cannot find any antihistamines.
    then I will quite coffee
    hopefully forever
    I thought it was nuts
    but this reaction is coming directly from the coffee and its getting worse
    so I think I am going to go to the hospital

  • Donna

    Hi all,

    I started getting a headache around 6PM tonight after having only 1 cup of coffee this morning at 10AM. I was tempted to drink another cup of coffee but I decided to brew my Yerba Mate and added only Stevia to it. I am so glad that I did and immediately my headache went away and I felt rejuvenated. It lifted my fatigue and I felt happy for the first time and not depressed, something I haven’t felt like in a long time. Coffee always made me tired instead of giving me energy. I started singing along with my Doo Wop show.

    Tomorrow I am going to brew Yerba Mate instead of my coffee and see how I feel during the day. It will be tough not drinking coffee first thing in the morning but I can’t stand the depressed and fatigued feeling it gives me.

    Hi Ron! I hope you will try Yerba Mate and can tolerate the caffeine in this. They call it “mateine” but it is still a form of a “caffeine”. It does contain anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals so it could offset the caffeine. Coffee robs our bodies of many of the B vitamins iron and magnesium, so this could be why we get jittery and suffer many affects of the caffeine in coffee and black tea. And again, many of us could have an allergy to it. It is good that we can communicate to other like-minded people through this post.

    There is another product to help with caffeine which is called “Teeccino” an herbal coffee. The loose form is not good for gluten-intolerant people but they do have it in a tea bag form with many flavors that is suppose to be safe for celiacs. I did try the loose form but I reacted to it because of the barley but I haven’t tried it in tea bags. It is a fairly new product.

    Don’t give up. We will all get there one of these days.

  • Carolyn Squires

    So fascinating to hear the range of symptoms- and so many I can relate to. It took me years to figure out that caffiene was causing difficulty breating that would last for days. Part of the reason was because when I stopped drinking tea and coffee I would drink hot chocolates instead not realising that chocolate has caffiene! I finally clicked when small amounts of chocolate started having the same effect. It is a hard road making it to ‘no coffee’- we need a coffeeoholics anon!
    I have also just clicked after suffering from ongoing mysterious itchy bumps that maybe those small amount of hot chocolate I am still consuming are the culprit! Thanks everyone for their input.

  • Unbelievable, I’ve been racking my brains out, 5 years trying to work out why I have this urticaria. Went on an elimination, was advised to try decaffeinated coffee (due to silicates in coffee beans) and if I needed that “hit” to have a caffeine tablet.
    5 years later, I have had chronic fatigue caused by sleep apnoea and now trying the CPAP machine, all is wonderful cept this rash.
    Turns out the ONE thing I have not given up is caffeine.
    So I’m going to go off it. Not that I’ve finished marking Uni Assignments. I can afford to give it a try.
    But any news on the herb Mate – its from Argentina, and it is a different chemical to caffeine, but it’s drunk in abundance in South America, in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay. The chemical is matine.
    I think I’m sensitive/intolerant to coffee. Hmmm THANKYOU for this site!

  • Vaidas

    I have a 5-6-7 simptomes after drinking cofee.So good that i found this article which clarifies my suspectations.
    I want to give advice for a guy who had diahrea and cramps.This is no stomach problems its damaged liver,i had same problems which went away after few courses of essentiale,but still we to quit drinking this poision 🙁

    Sorry for my mistakes im nor native english speaker 🙂

  • Thanks for listing the symptoms, I must look at ways to reduce the amount of coffee I take everyday.

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.