Caffeine Allergy/Intolerance
by Kelly_Fitz, Jul 04, 2008
I have had a serious problem with caffeine ever since I got the Gardasil vaccine. Whether or not the two are related, I have no clue, but I was an avid coffee drinker, soda drinker, what have you, before I got this vaccine. About two days after I received the vaccine I started to suffer something I cannot even accurately describe--my hands would tingle, I would feel like I was dying, I felt like I had the flu and I had a horrible fever. Beside the fact that I was having a bad reaction to the vaccine, I didn't realize that at the same time I was having a bad reaction to caffeine. All of the sudden, any time I had any coffee, soda or anything, I had a horrible panic attack and felt like, for lack of better words, like I was going crazy. I have suffered this since February of 2007. Just today I had HALF of a diet coke, no kidding, HALF, and the entire day couldn't even exist in my own skin. It is as if my body cannot metabolize it properly and it honestly makes my blood pressure go sky high---i'm talking like 150s or so without me even being anxious. What do I do??? What caused this?? Does anyone else have a similar experience??

From someone who is completely lost and feeling like they have no answers, there has to be someone else who has experienced what I have. And if not, then maybe I have no hope of anyone helping me explain what happened....I went to the dr. who administered the vaccine, who wouldn't help me, and countless others who dismissed my problems. But this is a last ditch effort to find someone else who either shares this problem or who can help me out.

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Member Comments (177)
by Dr_Aparna, Jul 04, 2008

Caffeine Allergy Symptoms

Caffeine allergy symptoms range from a minor rash to life threatening seizures. The severity of the reaction depends on what the person is actually allergic to and to what extent a person is allergic. Some of the reactions associated with caffeine allergies include difficulty breathing, shock, tongue, and facial swelling. These reactions are different than those associated with consuming too much caffeine which include jitters, headache, insomnia, and irritability. An uncommon component to caffeine that people experience adverse reactions to is tannins, but it does happen. Tannins are not only found in coffee and soda, but in chocolate and red wine as well. Adverse reactions to herbicides and pesticides used to grow coffee beans is a much more common culprit of adverse reactions. Keeping a diary of food consumed, physical and mental feelings each day, and physical activity will aid in discovering specific reasons for allergic reactions.
Caffeine allergy symptoms can be as subtle as tingling in the mouth, itchy skin, and minor swelling of the throat. People who have these reactions every day may not even notice them.
Many alternatives are available to replace caffeinated beverages and foods. Some people depend on drinking a warm beverage in the morning or throughout the day which can be replaced with chia tea, soy coffee, or Teeccino.

by Kelly_Fitz, Jul 04, 2008
Right, I get all that, I know that, but my question is, how does that just happen out of the blue? And it seems to have been triggered by the vaccine I got. I had been having caffeine regularly for years before that.

And it's not as cut and dry as that either. It's as if my body can't properly metabolize the caffeine, and I wind up with ungodly high blood pressure after having as little as half a cup of coffee or half of a soda and I feel like I'm dying. It's even made it so bad that I felt like I was going to pass out. What causes this??
by utopiaem, Jul 09, 2008
Kelly, I have the exact same problem.  Caffeine makes my heart race and gives me terrible panic attacks - and it came pretty much out of the blue.  I can't even take certain medications like Excedrin because of the caffeine content.

I don't have the symptoms the good doctor mentioned above, so I don't know if what I have can be classified as an allergy.  And I don't know what to tell you about why it happened so suddenly or what is causing it, but I figured you might take some comfort in knowing that you aren't alone.
by Kelly_Fitz, Jul 09, 2008
I don't have those symptoms either! That's why I was so frustrated when that was the only response I got. I was thinking, there has to be someone else who has this problem!! I felt horrible for a long time because I didn't realize it was caffeine that was the problem. I think somehow it built up in my system and I overdosed on it--have you read anything about caffeine overdoses and how that happens?

I'm so glad you wrote back to me! I've been so frustrated for so long about this and I kept trying to see if I could have a coke--but last week was the last straw. I had HALF of a diet coke and I felt like I was going to die (not really, but you know what I mean) for the rest of the day. So I've decided it must be some kind of real allergy or intolerance.

Did anything seem to trigger your allergy? how long have you had it?
by utopiaem, Jul 11, 2008
I can't remember doing anything different in my routine the week I suddenly was no longer able to drink caffeine.  One day I could drink it, and then a week later, after two panic attacks and feeling like my heart was going to explode, I figured out it was the caffeine.  It's been about four years now, and I know it's still there because around Christmas some idiot at Starbucks made me a fully caffeinated drink when I asked for decaf. I was on a subway train in New York when it hit, and I felt like I was about to explode out of my skin.

I have not read about caffeine overdoses, but I tended to only have one or two caffeinated drinks during an average day, so I doubt that was the cause of my issue.

The only thing I've found that makes sense online (I googled Caffeine intolerance - which was how I found you) was that people with anxiety disorders seem more susceptible to caffeine intolerance, something about it causing over-stimulation.   Anxiety disorders run in my family, and my mother, who has both an anxiety disorder and a heart condition, can also not drink caffeine. She just goes spastic if she does.

I haven't really tried to do very much research into the issue. Once I figured out what it was, I just avoided drinking caffeine.  I also stopped taking most cold and allergy medications because of the pseudoephedrine in them. Do you have a problem with those medications as well? They have a very similar affect on me.
by Kelly_Fitz, Jul 13, 2008
I don't really have any problems w/ pseudoephedrine--I have in the past, but it's usually few and far between b/c I don't take it too much.

That's really interesting about caffeine not being tolerated well by people who have anxiety disorders--I don't have a "disorder" per se, but I have had problems with anxiety before and I still do sometimes. I just get too worked up about things, but it's so much better now that I don't have any caffeine. I'm 24 now--the first time I ever had an anxiety episode was in college when I was about 19 and I had started taking advair and singulair for the first time for my asthma/allergies. I'm still convinced that that's what has opened the floodgates for me, so to speak.

As far as anxiety disorders go, different things can trigger the onset of them if you have a genetic predisposition for it, and for me that's what it was and I've had a problem with it ever since.

Sorry--I kind of went off subject, but the anxiety was never unbearable/unmanageable and I had always had caffeine without any problems. I will always remember the day everything hit me and it was just hell--I was driving to visit my parents and all of the sudden I felt like I couldn't even be in my own skin, just like you described. From there it was just a downward spiral--I was just practically crazy for months until I figured out I couldn't have caffeine, which just killed me--coffee was such a huge part of my day!!

And I can't even have decaf--at least you can do that. I can't have any caffeine at all :(

Everyone kept acting like I was being ridiculous when I mentioned a possible caffeine allergy or intolerance--even doctors!! I just think it's upsetting when you can't even trust your doctor to hear you out and accept the possibility that you have developed an allergy to something.
by Fulci, Jul 17, 2008
Kelly, I'm not having the same symptoms as you regarding caffeine and I didn't receive the Gardasil vaccine but my story is somewhat similar to yours. I've been consuming caffeine for years, diet sodas, coffee, energy drinks and even caffeine pills that they sell at Walmart from time to time.

About two years ago something slowly changed. At night, when I just got into bed, as I'm about to fall asleep I become in an indescribable state. I'm not sleeping but not entirely awake. Then my body is kind of numb and at the same time it's like if there's irritability and aggressively going on inside my body, as weird as this might sound.

In the beginning I only had to get up, watch t.v. for a few minutes to get really awake and after that I could go back to sleep. After a while it didn't work anymore. I had to get up completely and it's like I needed something to counter fight what was going on in my body. So I ate sugary stuff. Then of course I thought that maybe I had diabetes. Nope, since then I had 2 complete health check up and everything's fine. And I also have a glucometer at home and monitor it regularly just to see and I haven't have any problem with my blood sugar level.

After a while, the sugar was not enough neither.

So I cut back the caffeine, even to down to 2 diet soda at 8 in the morning and still if I go to bed at midnight, it will do it!!

BUT, here's the unbelievable part. Is that let say I get up at 7 am. I consume 70mg of caffeine (2 diet sodas or 1 and half cup coffee) then I'm ok and I can even take a nap in the afternoon with no problem whatsoever!! And then the day go on, without me drinking anymore caffeine. But comes the night, even if I go to bed at 1 in the morning, bam, it does it again!

That happens everyday, either that I take a nap or not. I have been up sometimes for 18 hours and having not consuming caffeine for 16 and the same problem occurs.

And finally, now, during the day, I have another symptom, my jaws get stiff, you know like if you were angry at something...

So like I said the symptoms are not the same but like you, I've been consuming caffeine my whole life and all of the sudden boom...

The only medicine I take is Effexor XR and I've been taking it long before this problem occur.

Like you said, I rally wish someone could explain to us what's going on because sometime I'm feeling like I'm going mental!

I've talked to about 4 doctors and 5 or 6 pharmacist and none were able to provide me with a concrete answer!

by Kelly_Fitz, Jul 17, 2008
It doesn't sound weird. I can relate--even when I try to explain how I feel when I have caffeine, it's really really hard to put into words; so I usually end up sounding very strange and unbelievable. I've given up trying to explain it to doctors, because I know in my heart that I've developed an allergy to caffeine whether they want to recognize it or not. And there's nothing they can do for me other than tell me to stay away from it--so basically it all just comes down to doing what you know is best for you.

I was so mad about it for so long, but here lately I've just decided that the only thing I can do is either accept it and move on or not accept it and be miserable.

I hope you feel better--Have you ever looked up any side effects for Effexor?? I used to take SO MUCH medicine for my asthma and allergies for so long, and one day out of the blue developed a ton of weird symptoms--About a year later I stopped taking everything and all of my symptoms subsided. It's worth looking into.

Have you ever had any problems w/ anxiety/nervousness? I have issues w/ the stiff jaw thing also. It really got bad when I was pregnant, but it's gotten better since then. I say just try and cut out the caffeine completely for a few weeks and see if you don't feel better--and at the same time, see if effexor might be contributing to how you're feeling ;)
by Fulci, Jul 19, 2008
Thank you for your advice.

I never had any "jaws" issues before, maybe one time or two in traffic lol but never had this problem...I was diagnosed with Disthymia in 2003 and been taking Effexor since so un less it slowly creeped in on me, I don't think that's what's causing my problem...

Of course the normal thing is to cut the caffeine completely. I did for a few days and it didn't seem to it at night (my problem) but I have to do it longer, like you said, for a few weeks to really see.

BUT, here's where I'm having so much difficulties. I never have been the most enthusiast and energize person so with caffeine in the morning, it give me a little boost to get me going. When I stop drinking it, I'm like a zombie lol That's why I'm having such a hard time stopping it.

So now, I'm in another vicious cycle, since I'm not stopping the caffeine, I recently started to take Zopiclone at night to help me fall asleep. But I hate pills, so I have to do something about this. The Effexor I've accepted it because I know that something wasn't right with me all my life and with it I'm doing much better. But this new problem, I don't need.

So what I will do is try to find if there are doctors that conducts food allergy test or something...Did you ever tried to find one to do this ?