This week’s episode of ABC’s “Fresh off the Boat” touched on a red-hot issue that has plagued the Asian American community for years: the Asian flush.
During Tuesday’s show, aptly titled “The Flush,” the underaged Eddie Huang takes a sip of beer and, to his horror, inexplicably turns beat-red. His dad, Louis, catches him and has to put aside his anger and calm Eddie by explaining why he’s glowing in a different color.
“It’s called the Asian flush. It’s an allergic reaction,” Louis, who also happens to be red-faced from drinking, tells his son. “Your body lacks the enzyme to process alcohol.”
“Great, just another way I’m different than everyone else,” Eddie replies.
The episode, which guest stars comedian Ali Wong and NBA star Jeremy Lin, highlighted an embarrassing moment that many Asian people have had to reckon with.
The Asian flush (aka the Asian glow) is known to the medical community as the alcohol flush reaction. It occurs in people who are missing an enzyme needed to metabolize alcohol. The result? Affected persons turn red in the face and may experience itchiness or hot flashes.
The Asian flush doesn’t affect every single Asian person, but it is common in people of Japanese, Korean and Chinese descent, according to the Yale Scientific. Over the years, people have found various ways to deal with it.
Later in Tuesday’s episode, Louis shares with his son a few tips about how he’s learned to adapt with his Asian flush. In college, Louis says, he would fake being drunk when he was with his white friends to avoid embarrassment, but he would let his red shine freely whenever he drank with his Chinese friends because “they understood.”
“Eventually, I developed a pre-game routine that would fight it the best I could,” Louis explains, breaking out his “flush pack” filled with tools to help him fight off the side effects of the Asian flush. It contained Pepsid AC, an inhaler, eye drops and Tums antacid.
Asian Americans praised “Fresh off the Boat” for airing such a relatable episode. They also thanked the show for explaining the Asian flush to the rest of the country, so they wouldn’t have to anymore.