What is a Caffeine Allergy?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Caffeine allergies are situations in which an individual experiences a severe and sometimes life-threatening reaction to the ingestion of any type of caffeine. Unlike caffeine intolerance, people suffering with this type of allergy cannot consume even tiny amounts of caffeine without endangering their physical and emotional well-being.

People who have a caffeine allergy should avoid energy drinks.
People who have a caffeine allergy should avoid energy drinks.

Like many drugs, caffeine affects the function of the brain and triggers a number of reactions within the body. For many people, consuming small amounts of beverages or foods that contain caffeine provides a temporary increase in energy and enhances mental focus. A person who is allergic is not likely to experience any of these benefits, however. Instead, people with an allergic reaction to caffeine are more likely to find the experience to be extremely traumatic both physically and mentally.

Coffee is a natural source of caffeine, so it should be avoided by people with an allergy.
Coffee is a natural source of caffeine, so it should be avoided by people with an allergy.

Rather than cultivating a sense of focus and energy, the drug triggers unwelcome mental and emotional responses. Focusing on even simple tasks become increasingly difficult. The individual may begin to feel somewhat paranoid, suffer from delusions, and even experience hallucinations. In extreme situations, the outward reaction may resemble that of a severe anxiety attack.

An individual with a caffeine allergy may experience an anxiety attack after ingesting the drug.
An individual with a caffeine allergy may experience an anxiety attack after ingesting the drug.

Along with the mental and emotional symptoms, a caffeine allergy may also trigger a number of unwelcome physical symptoms. The heart may begin to race, triggering a response somewhat like angina. Quick and jerky movements in the muscles may occur. Vision may begin to blur. Overall, the individual may feel as if the body is rebelling and about to shut down.

Chocolate cake can trigger a caffeine allergy.
Chocolate cake can trigger a caffeine allergy.

The process for diagnosing an allergy involves a two pronged approach. First, since all the symptoms associated with the allergic reaction can also be associated with other physical and mental ailments, it is often necessary to test for those health issues first and remove them from consideration. At the same time, a medical professional may also conduct blood work and other testing to determine if caffeine is being expelled from the system properly. Often, people with this type of allergy do not process and eliminate caffeine in the same manner as others who are not hindered with this condition. Once all relevant factors are investigated, it is then possible to diagnose the allergy and determine the proper course of treatment.

Most people who are allergic to chocolate can tolerate carob as a substitute.
Most people who are allergic to chocolate can tolerate carob as a substitute.

When it comes to allergy treatment strategies, the main line of defense comes with removing any and all foods and beverages containing the drug from the diet. In extreme cases, this also means stopping the use of products that are marketed as decaffeinated, since many of these items still contain very small traces of the drug. Along with eliminating these products from daily consumption, it is also a good idea for people with allergies to look for substitutions. Doing so helps to minimize the sense of loss that comes with giving up favorite foods and drinks, and increases the chances that the sufferer will be able to avoid the temptation to have just one cup of coffee or a bite of chocolate cake.

People with a caffeine allergy should avoid social situations that take place in coffee shops.
People with a caffeine allergy should avoid social situations that take place in coffee shops.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I'm wondering whether I could be a victim of caffeine allergy, as well.

I found this website while looking for common allergic symptoms to either fish or caffeine. These are the last two products I could possibly think of that make my eyes swollen and itchy and flaky skin. I have some other allergies, including hay fever and probably lactose intolerance as well, but nothing ever produced such symptoms, and I have had this eczema coming and going for a few months now. Basically, it gets worse and worse, the skin cracks and bleeds, it affects my vision and makes life harder at times.

For a couple of weeks now I've been eating rice crackers (to avoid gluten and wheat), some fruits (different ones every time), vegetables, little red meat and drinking lots of water. I have to point out I'm consuming quite a lot of fish and fish products. And then comes caffeine. I drink quite a lot of coffee, I like dark chocolate and cocoa as well as tea, especially green tea.

The problem is I'm drinking coffee to calm down as I can get over-excited without it, but not aggressive. I'm getting reverse symptoms: anxiety or problems with concentration comes after a couple or a few days without caffeine. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and it comes back with all the bad stuff like problems with concentration, loss of short term memory (going to the kitchen for glass of water and ending up doing tons of stuff yet coming back without water, etc) - basically I'm mostly more focused and better organized on caffeine.

The problem is sporadically I'm experiencing weird problems like bad concentration or over-excitement or these "foggy mind" kind of states, but I thought these occur when I overdose on caffeine (drink five or six strong coffees a day).

Is it possible that I'm actually suffering from a caffeine allergy?

I'm sorry for long(ish) post, I was just trying to get it described well. --Peter


I used to drink large amounts of tea and coffee, regular at first then later decaf. My body however developed a allergy to it. It took two years for me to work out what was triggering the symptoms which were often severe. My doctors (including allergy doctor) were of little use, saying that I was suffering from anxiety. Since I don't suffer from anxiety normally, it did not make sense especially as the allergy seemed to be related to food intake. My main symptom was a difficulty breathing, more severe in the evenings. My chest would lock up and inhaling was difficult. I even pulled muscles in my chest from time to time trying to get air in.

I was given inhalers and valium to use to relieve the symptoms. (I never took the valium and the inhalers sometimes helped, some times made it worse). I eventually worked out it was caffeine and have been symptom free since I stopped eating or drinking anything with it in.

My sister has since developed an intolerance - her symptoms not being quite as bad ( she can occasional drink decaf tea without suffering side effects.) Once again her doctor (different doctor) said it was anxiety but like me she is not someone who has ever suffered from it. All her symptoms stopped when she refrained from using caffeine.

I wonder how many other people out there are mistakenly diagnosed with anxiety and given drugs when it is really a reaction to caffeine and all they need to do is stop eating or drinking foods/drinks containing it.


I get the exact symptoms of anon55916! I am happy to see info out there on caffeine allergies, but this article leaves a lot of symptoms out.

Personally, I never experience rashes or paranoia. Instead, my legs get tight and swollen. My legs go numb. And if it gets really bad my hands, wrists, forearms, and even lips go numb! It started off with coffee and tea, but now I cannot even have a tiny morsel of chocolate!

Also, beware the many topical cosmetic/beauty products that contain caffeine now. I used a Trader Joe's face wash that has green tea in it (not labeled or advertised on front). For months my face was bright red and rashy. I was also constantly dizzy. Since stopping, everything has improved. I am really mad that caffeine is not regulated!


Since I came to The United States in 2007, I started to drink coffee and am used to this habit.

Then I developed severe depression and anxiety for two years. I kept drinking coffee, knowing its allergic effects. After reading these comments, I will stop drinking it in hope that the symptoms might stop.


I found out I was allergic to caffeine in February 2012. I had a chocolate covered coffee bean and three hours later, I had hives and a rash on my chest, arms, legs, back, everywhere! I thought I was going to die because the next day, I had to go to the emergency care center.

They put me on a steroid and that helped for about seven hours, but then I had another severe allergic reaction. My face was blown and my throat was closing fast. My mum took me to the hospital and I was having an anxiety attack. I thought I was going to die. Once I was at the hospital, they gave me Xanax to calm me down.

The bad thing was I had an ACT class the next freaking morning!

To this day, I am still allergic and whenever I see chocolate or coffee or any type of caffeine, I get so depressed.

But one question: can you stop being allergic to caffeine and coffee?


Wow. These comments are very helpful. For the last 20 years I have abused coffee to the maximum. I could not function through the day without a constant cup! I have made Starbucks rich.

I've also been dealing with intestinal parasites that have been with me for years, unbeknownst to me. I did three cycles of mebendazole (nasty noxious drug) and have been doing a cleanse. After the cleanse I had a regular cup of coffee. I've never felt so bad. My vision went myopic, my head started to pound and I couldn't focus on anything. I had to lie down and sleep it off. In denial that I couldn't consume coffee anymore, I tried tea. Same horrific feeling. I am a living testament that you can develop a coffee allergy!

Sad as it is to me, it really isn't that bad. I'm just starting to regain what is my natural energy, and listen to my body when it says it's time to slow down for a bit and not try to push it through to get that much more work done.


About five years ago when i was 15, i drank a cup of coffee. i felt fine for the first 5 minutes but then it hit me like a wave. i felt dizzy, my vision was becoming blurry and then i fainted. my mom was so scared she didn't know what was wrong with me. my dad picked me up and took me outside where i could breathe because i felt like my lungs had locked up and i couldn't breathe any longer.

After 15 minutes, i felt fine, like nothing had happened. Then the next day we went to eat dinner and i was fine but when we got up to leave i got this huge head rush and i felt like i was going to faint again. I didn't. Instead, i went on a full scale panic attack. i was trying so hard not to panic, then while in the car i started to have these mini heart palpitations and i started to have what i like to call mini seizures.

my mom and my sister then rushed me to the hospital and a doctor who was about to leave the parking lot saw my sister struggling to try and get me out. He ran towards us and picked me up and ran inside the emergency room, then a whole bunch of nurses and doctors ran towards me and put an alcohol towel on my mouth and nose.

Well i still couldn't breathe, so then they intubated me and started to push all of these medicines inside me. then i fell asleep, and i thought i had died. i woke up 3 days later in my bed. I asked my mom and she said they discharged me and said my blood tests showed an extreme elevation to caffeine. they told her i could have died in 10 minutes if they hadn't rushed me. so if this happened to you, you are not alone. it's been almost six years and i have not touched a cup of coffee. A lot of people think they would not be able to live without it, but it really is easy.


I've stopped drinking caffeine altogether for about three months now. Now that it's winter I drink about four or five glasses of water. For the past three days I've been wanting to drink coke but I'm not sure this is a good thing. Will I experience some type of symptoms/side effects if I drank coke now?


Wow glad I found this site. A couple of times week I have a Pepsi Cola, and I like the initial effect: more energy. I crave it! But later I regret it, sometimes many hours later. By that time I have forgotten I drank it and wonder where this chatty, anxious behavior is coming from. Next morning I sometimes wake up with heart palpitations. I feel, as others have mentioned, my body is having a difficult time eliminating it. It's become more apparent in the last year.


what can i do to stop the symptoms of my allergy to caffeine (I have accidentally drank coffee that was not decaf and am feeling awful now).


When I drink coffee with caffeine in it I get very weak feeling. My heart beats faster, I get a massive headache within minutes of drinking it, I have vomiting and nausea. I often feel "tunnel vision" as though I'm about to faint. My hearing will fade to a slow loud sound like a drum and a bell at the same time.

I feel paranoid about my symptoms, not really anything else, and this will last for up to two days from one cup. I think I am allergic to it. But I'm OK if it's decaf, except that it upsets my stomach.


Every time I have anything with caffeine, I get tired within just a few moments, and then become partially paralyzed for a while. I know you're supposed to get the high feeling, and then the low, but i never get the energy that comes with it, just exhustion. Is this a sign of caffeine allergies?


Is it life threatening to feel burning on your left leg every time I take caffeine.


anon68038: That isn't true, because your body eventually works itself into having a caffeine allergy.


I am currently struggling with unexplained anxiety, paranoia, heart palpitations, and tingling sensations in my hands. Over time, these symptoms became more severe.

One month ago, I had a full scale anxiety attack to the point where I was crying for no reason. Coincidentally, two months ago I started drinking half-caff coffee daily at work. However, I would drink regularly 16 oz or more.

I feel like this may be my problem and will stop consuming caffeine entirely. Glad to hear I am not alone!


This article does not describe a caffeine allergy. Rather, it describes symptoms of a genetic deficiency of the body's ability to break down caffeine.


Beginning in 2005 I suffered, with increasing frequency, from anxiety attacks. They tended to occur during a flight or when using the subway. It got so bad that I had to take xanax before flying. I also tried to avoid using the subway whenever I could.

Two months ago, I decided to give up coffee (incl. decaf) completely. After a couple of weeks, I already felt a lot less anxious. I have had no anxiety attacks on the subway since giving up coffee.

Interestingly, as a child, I never wanted to drink coffee. I was told - as a teenager - that I must drink it; that it was childish to refuse to drink coffee. I think even then my body knew that coffee would do me no good.

I am so happy now. I haven't flown over the past two months, so I do not know what will happen then. But I feel confident that I will be okay (and won't need the xanax).


I drink often energy drink but with what you said, I must add itchy skin and hives on the body. I stopped drinking them and my skin is getting better.


I believe that I am developing an allergy towards caffeine. I have begun have extreme pain and burning in my legs and arms, tingling face and hands, anxiety attacks, and fatigue when I drink caffeine.

I stopped drinking it about a month ago and have been fine.


Hi, I am highly sensitive to caffeine like your wife. I don't get aggressive but I get this kind of brain fog and disorientated feeling. I can't think clearly, I can't drive, work or even have a conversation. It has got 70 percent better since giving up caffeine but still there each day. I would love to find a cure for this.


To anon36335, your description of the wifes behavior describes me to a T. I get the same reactions, and it takes me days and now that I look more closely, weeks, to become stable again. My husband actually started noting my behavior and we began monitoring my well being after consuming caffeine. For me, it's a serious drug that causes havoc in my world. Thanks for sharing, I feel comforted that I am not alone.


My wife has caffeine allergy and goes pyschotic with even just a small amount. Like 1 decaf coffee. She becomes very aggressive and unreasonable and in that state invariably consumes more caffeine. My experience of living with her for many years is, once she ingests any caffeine it takes at least 3 days before she is able to begin to function and a full 3 weeks before she is able to think clearly again. Problem is that it's everywhere you go and no one actully seems to believe that it could possibly have such a bad effect on a person. This article describes her to a Tee, thanks for providing this information.


What causes a caffeine allergy and are there any tests? Will it eventually go away or is there any cure known yet?

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