Is A Blue Nose A Sign Of Alcoholism?

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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Is Blue Nose a Reliable Sign of Alcoholism?

When it comes to the question of alcoholism, many people believe that the condition of a person’s nose can be an indication of an individual who has an issue with drinking. That is, if a person has a nose that seems more prominent than usual and has a red, purple, or bluish color, it’s a sure sign that person is a heavy drinker and alcoholic. But is it true? 

There is no truth to the idea that a person’s nose color is a reliable indication of alcoholism. It is more likely that a person’s nose that appears red or bluish is related to a medical condition. However, consuming alcohol can indeed contribute to medical conditions that result in skin ailments that may give a person’s nose a red or bluish hue. 

Busting the Myth of Drinkers Nose

There have been many names for nose conditions attributed to heavy drinking. A few are gin blossom nose, whiskey nose, drinker’s nose, and red, purple, and blue nose.

According to the National Rosacea Society, the famous actor W.C. Fields may be the person who bolstered the drinker’s nose myth more than anyone else in America. Born in 1880, Fields began his career as a vaudeville actor and juggler. His comedic skills led naturally to acting on the silver screen, first in silent films and then the “talkies.” 

His comedic schtick was that of a cantankerous heavy drinker who disliked dogs and children. He found much of everything else in life annoying as well. Even so, he was endearing. His persona was that of a loveable crank. It was also well-known that W.C. Fields was a heavy drinker in real life, a fact often reported in the press. At the same time, his most distinguishing feature could not be missed. It was his prominent, bulbous nose.

Fields died in 1946, so that was before he could appear in color films. Yet, his reputation for having a red nose was almost universal because when artists in print publications drew caricatures of him, they often gave him a red-tinted nose. He appeared that way in movie posters as well.

W.C. Fields was born with a larger-than-average nose, but as he grew older, he developed a condition called rosacea. Another disorder of the nose complicated this called rhinophyma. It is believed that rhinophyma results from severe rosacea that has not been treated, and the name literally means “growth of the nose.” 

Rosacea is a skin condition that most often involves the cheeks and nose and affects more than 16 million Americans. It produces redness and sometimes a purplish redness that can be described as blue, along with swelling, pimples, and the appearance of small, dilated blood vessels.

A person with rosacea is not necessarily an alcoholic. It may be the case that they do not have any form of addiction. This is critical to keep in mind because, in this all-too-often judgmental society, people enduring the effects of rosacea through no fault of their own should not be automatically tagged as alcoholics. As long as the drinker’s nose myth remains, rosacea sufferers and other people with skin conditions will be forced to deal with the stigma associated with those who drink heavily. 

Treatments for Rosacea

Rosacea is not well understood, and effective treatments for the condition are elusive. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, several treatments are available. These include:

  • Medicated creams and gels
  • Prescription pills
  • Laser treatments

In addition, several lifestyle changes can help with rosacea. These include things like using sunscreen to protect your skin, stress management techniques to reduce flair-ups, and avoiding products that aggravate the condition.

The Alcohol Connection

It’s important to add that heavy drinking can can trigger rosacea flair-ups and exacerbate the condition. In addition, consider that drinking alcohol can cause some people to develop a red flush on their faces. If they already have rosacea, it makes the effect of the condition more visible and dramatic.

It is important to keep in mind that rosacea flair-ups can be caused by a host of stressors, such as insomnia, stress, anxiety, dehydration, and conditions that produce dry skin. The latter can be a dry atmosphere, too much exposure to the sun, or various contributing skin diseases, such as eczema. Certain types of the condition can also be aggravated by what a person eats. For example, fatty foods can exacerbate erythematotelangiectatatic and papulopustular rosacea. 

However, drinking alcohol may add that characteristic blue or purple hue to a person who has a red nose caused by rosacea. If you know a person who has been diagnosed with this condition and their rosacea seems to worsen, it could be a sign that they have been drinking too much.

When to Get Help for Problem Drinking

In those cases where one can be certain that consuming alcohol is contributing to issues with rosacea or other health conditions, the solution is to avoid alcohol. You or someone you care about may have attempted to quit drinking because alcohol is making the condition worse but have been unable to. This is a sign that you or a loved one may have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a mental health condition that is characterized by the inability to stop drinking alcohol despite social, occupational, or health consequences. Some of the other signs professionals look for when diagnosing you with AUD are:

  • There are times when you drink more than you intend to.
  • You spend a lot of time drinking and recovering from its effects.
  • Your alcohol consumption interferes with taking care of home, work, or school responsibilities.
  • You continue to drink even though it has caused problems with friends and loved ones.
  • You no longer engage in some of the activities you enjoy in favor of drinking.
  • You have driven a car or engaged in other activities that are not safe while under the influence of alcohol.
  • You have to drink more alcohol to get the desired effects.
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you refrain from drinking.
  • You continue to drink even though you know it is causing health issues.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

If alcohol use has become a problem for you or a loved one, treatment generally starts with medical detoxification at a rehab center or in a hospital. This is because there are serious risks associated with quitting drinking on your own. Some of the withdrawal symptoms people experience during the process of ridding their bodies of alcohol include:

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion
  • High blood pressure

In addition, a person who has been drinking heavily for years may experience extreme withdrawal symptoms. Some of these include:

  • Seizures
  • Auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations
  • Severe confusion
  • Fevers
  • Trouble breathing 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally start anywhere from six hours to a few days after a person has stopped drinking. They may worsen after two or three days and generally begin to subside in about a week. However, some people may have symptoms that last for weeks.

When detoxing at a hospital or treatment facility, professionals monitor you around the clock to ensure you stay healthy. Their secondary goal is to make you as comfortable as possible during the process. A doctor may administer medications during detox to ease your withdrawal symptoms. After you feel a little better, a professional will talk to you about the next steps. These will most likely include therapy. Your treatment plan may also involve support groups and inpatient or outpatient care at a treatment center. 


If you detox at a treatment center, whether you choose an inpatient or outpatient program, you will engage in behavioral therapy because it is beneficial for achieving a sober lifestyle. Alternatively, if you choose not to enter a program after the detoxification process at a hospital, your doctor will recommend that you seek out help from a substance use disorder specialist. Several forms of therapy can be effective at treating alcohol use disorder. 

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy helps you build and reinforce the motivation to abstain from alcohol and may be beneficial if you are undecided about entering a program at a rehab center. It usually only involves about four sessions with a therapist. During sessions, a therapist will help you consider the positives and negatives of entering a program. Next, you will work with your therapist to make a plan to refrain from drinking, which may include ongoing therapy and support groups or getting into a structured rehab environment. The concluding sessions concentrate on developing skills to follow up on your plan.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that how you think and feel will dictate your behavior. CBT is used in many treatment center programs and by substance use disorder specialists outside of these facilities. During sessions, a therapist will work with you to identify feelings and actions that have led to you drinking in the past. The goal of the treatment is to challenge thought patterns to change how you respond to difficult situations. You will learn strategies to deal with thoughts and feelings that make you want to drink during stressful or other negative situations. This therapy is well-suited to treating AUD because it is goal orientated. You can focus on practical techniques to abstain from drinking alcohol.

Support Groups

For many, joining a self-help group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, is a good way to find a support network. During meetings, you can share your challenges and hear about how others have dealt with similar circumstances. These groups are intended to support your decision to maintain a healthier lifestyle. 

The Alcohol Awareness Hotline Can Help

At Alcohol Awareness, we know how hard it is to quit drinking, even when your use is contributing to a health condition like rosacea, because we are recovering alcoholics ourselves. We also know how challenging it is to find support if you are concerned about your drinking or that of a loved one. Contact us today at (855) 955-0771 so that we can help you connect with alcohol use disorder resources in your area.