How to Identify a Vinegar Allergy

An allergy to vinegar is rare, but possible. It is also possible to experience allergy-like symptoms due to an intolerance. People who experience symptoms after consuming vinegar may have an intolerance to sulfites, histamine, salicylates, or acetic acid.

Learn more about the sensitivities and intolerances that may cause allergy-like symptoms with vinegar, diagnosis, treatment, and foods to avoid.

Using vinegar to make salad dressing

Milan_Jovic / Getty Images

Causes of a Vinegar Allergy

Allergy-like symptoms after consuming vinegar may be triggered by intolerances or sensitivities.

Salicylate Sensitivity

Salicylates are chemicals similar to aspirin. Naturally-occurring salicylates may be found in various foods, including fruits and vegetables. Vinegar other than distilled white vinegar and malt vinegar may contain salicylates.

Foods that are high in salicylates can rarely cause symptoms of intolerance that are similar to symptoms of allergy. However, this is not the same as an allergy to aspirin or vinegar.

An intolerance to salicylates may be more common than intolerance to artificial preservatives or colors. Those with a salicylate sensitivity may need to avoid foods high in salicylates. This includes foods that may contain vinegar, like chutney and mayonnaise.

Sulfite Sensitivity

Vinegar, especially wine vinegar and cider vinegar, may have sulfites added. Sulfites are compounds that help prolong the life of foods and beverages. To preserve food, sulfites release a gas called sulphur dioxide. This gas can contribute to allergy-like symptoms by irritating the airway.

Sulfites can cause allergy-like symptoms. This is believed to impact less than 2% of the general population. Among people with asthma, the prevalence of sulfite sensitivity is 5% to 13%.

Histamine Intolerance

Histamine is a naturally occurring chemical found in certain foods. An intolerance to histamine is believed to be caused by a lack of an enzyme needed to break down histamine in the digestive system. This enzyme is called diamine oxidase.

People with histamine intolerance may experience allergy-like symptoms when they consume foods that contain high levels of histamine. Vinegar is one example of a high histamine food. 

Acetic Acid Intolerance

Acetic acid is the ingredient that gives vinegar its smell. Vinegar contains water and about 4% to 6% acetic acid. Other names for acetic acid include ethylic acid, ethanoic acid, vinegar acid, and methane carboxylic acid.

Acetic acid is commonly used in vitamins and medicines. It occurs naturally in foods like wine, aged cheese, or fresh orange juice.

People with acetic acid intolerance may experience allergy-like symptoms when consuming vinegar and foods high in acetic acid.


Those with an intolerance to salicylates, sulfites, histamine, or acetic acid may experience various symptoms after consuming vinegar or products containing vinegar.

Those who consume vinegar and have an intolerance may experience the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Skin inflammation
  • Cough
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Flushed skin
  • Itching
  • Swelling


If a person is experiencing symptoms after consuming vinegar, allergy tests may be ordered to rule out allergies.

This may involve a skin prick test. During this test, an allergist places a small amount of a suspected allergen on the skin on either the back or the arm. Once the allergen has been placed on the skin, the skin is then pricked or scratched to allow the allergen to move just under the surface of the skin.

After 15 minutes, the allergy specialist will examine the skin for bumps, known as wheals. If a red raised bump is present, this may indicate an allergy.

In many cases, those with a sensitivity to something like sulfites will not return a positive allergy test. In this case, a different approach is taken.

A healthcare provider may take a full medical history and ask about symptoms. They may also perform a physical exam.

In some cases, a healthcare provider may ask a person with symptoms of an intolerance to keep a food diary to assist in diagnosis.

Being asked to avoid certain foods (like vinegar) for a period of time to see if symptoms improve is one approach to help determine what is causing symptoms.


There is no cure for an intolerance or an allergy. Treatment is focused on the management of symptoms.

This involves strict avoidance of foods that cause an intolerance. If an intolerance to an entire food chemical is identified, like sulfites, multiple foods may need to be avoided. A dietitian will be able to assist with developing a diet plan to accommodate this.

Reading labels when buying food and being cautious when eating out are important management strategies.

Medicines may also help with symptoms. These include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Inhalers

What to Avoid

Once a healthcare provider has determined what is causing symptoms, they will be able to advise what foods to avoid.

For example, if a person is found to be intolerant to sulfites, they will need to avoid various foods and vinegar. These include:

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Shrimp
  • Syrup
  • Deli meat
  • Sausages
  • Salad dressing

A healthcare provider or dietitian can advise what foods to avoid.

Vinegar Alternatives

Those with an intolerance may need to use alternatives in place of vinegar. These alternatives may depend on whether an intolerance is to sulfites, histamine, salicylates, or acetic acid.

Those who need to avoid vinegar should avoid products like salad dressing, chutney, mayonnaise, and pickles. Instead, try other sauces or gravies. Instead of vinegar in salad dressings, try an oil and lemon juice dressing.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are experiencing symptoms when you consume vinegar or any other food or beverage, you should consider making an appointment with a healthcare provider.

They will be able to help determine if symptoms are being caused by an allergy, intolerance, or something else. They will also be able to advise the best treatment approach going forward.


An allergy to vinegar is rare but possible. People who consume vinegar may experience symptoms similar to an allergy due to an intolerance to histamines, salicylates, sulfites, or acetic acid. There is no treatment or cure for allergy or intolerance, but avoiding vinegar or other foods associated with an intolerance is important.

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing symptoms after consuming vinegar, consider making an appointment with a healthcare provider. They will be able to help determine if symptoms are due to an intolerance, allergy, or something else.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How common is a vinegar allergy?

    An allergy to vinegar is rare, but possible. An intolerance or sensitivity to vinegar is also possible.

  • Can a vinegar allergy be cured?

    It is not possible to cure an allergy or an intolerance. Treatment is focused on managing symptoms and avoiding allergens or ingredients to which a person is intolerant.

  • Can you have an allergic reaction to cider vinegar?

    While rare, there have been reports of allergic reactions to vinegar and apple cider vinegar. One study from 2016 reported a person had experienced an anaphylactic reaction (a severe allergic reaction) to apple cider vinegar.

  • Is a vinegar allergy the same as an allergy to acidic foods?

    A vinegar allergy is rare. An intolerance to vinegar can be due to an intolerance to histamine, sulfites, salicylates, or acetic acid. Some foods that contain these chemicals may also be acidic. For example, citrus fruits contain high levels of histamine.

15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nanagas V, Tipton-Hendershot S, Cook C, Holland C. P285 Anaphylactoid reaction to mother of vinegarAnnals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2016;117(5):S106. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2016.09.298

  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Salicylate sensitivity.

  3. Allergy UK. Aspirin intolerance and salicylates.

  4. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Food intolerance.

  5. NSW Government. Allergy diet - salicylate low.

  6. Vally H, Misso NL. Adverse reactions to the sulphite additives. Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench. 2012;5(1):16-23.

  7. Winchester Hospital. Sulfite sensitivity.

  8. Allergy UK. Sulphites and airway symptoms.

  9. Allergy UK. Histamine intolerance.

  10. Kohn JB. Is there a diet for histamine intolerance? J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(11):1860. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.09.009

  11. Virginia Department of Health. Acetic acid.

  12. Añíbarro B, Seoane FJ. Ethanol-induced urticaria caused by sensitization to acetic acid. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2018;120(3):337-338. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2017.12.020

  13. Nemours Kids Health. What is skin testing for allergies?

  14. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Food allergy.

  15. Histamine Intolerance Awareness. The food list.