Hangovers are unpleasant physical symptoms that appear the next day after drinking too much alcohol the day or night before. Symptoms can last 24 hours and generally peak when the blood alcohol level falls to near zero. They may include:
- Upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting
- Dehydration and thirst
- Weakness or fatigue
- Disrupted sleep
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Depression, anxiety, or irritability
- Inability to concentrate
Various factors related to alcohol consumption can contribute to a hangover, including dehydration from frequent urination, a drop in blood sugar, and expanded blood vessels. The only surefire way to avoid a hangover is not to drink. There’s a lot still unknown about hangovers, and individual susceptibility varies greatly.
Remedies and Treatments for Hangovers
There’s no miracle hangover cure. You need to wait for your body to eliminate the toxins produced by alcohol consumption and rehydrate. There are steps you can take, however, to reduce the symptoms that occur the morning after a night of overindulgence. These include:
Drink plenty of water the evening of alcohol consumption and the morning after. Alcohol is a diuretic, a substance that increases the volume of urine, and dehydration contributes to hangover symptoms such as thirst and headache.
Alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones can also help you space out your consumption of alcohol and drink in moderation.
Taking Pain Relievers
Over-the-counter pain medications can help when you suffer from headaches or nausea. However, avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can cause liver damage when combined with alcohol.
Eating Healthy Foods
While some swear by a greasy breakfast, a balanced and nutritious meal is your best option for hangover relief. Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach and disrupts your metabolism. Choosing foods that are nutrient-dense and easy to digest may help you avoid nausea and blood sugar spikes and drops, which can intensify hangover symptoms.
Make sure to get lots of vitamins and antioxidants in your next-day diet, which are crucial to helping your body process and get rid of toxins.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
While alcohol can initially put you to sleep, it then has a disruptive effect on sleep, lowering both quantity and quality. The results of too little sleep can overlap with the results of too much drinking, leading to worse headaches, weakness, and confusion.
While all alcohol can produce a hangover, some drinks are more likely to produce one than others. Many people are allergic to the sulfites in wine and experience headaches after drinking. If you’re sensitive to sulfites, you may want to avoid wine, particularly red wine.
Congeners are chemicals that are produced during fermentation and are responsible for much of a drink’s flavor and aroma. In general, dark-colored alcohols have more congeners than light-colored ones do and produce more severe hangovers. If you want to avoid a hangover, you may want to steer clear of brandy, rum, and whisky.
Trying Home Remedies
Studies have shown that both red ginseng and Korean pear juice may help prevent hangovers or reduce symptoms. Both need to be taken before you start drinking.
Red ginseng temporarily speeds up the body’s metabolizing of ethanol, the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic drinks. One study examined blood alcohol levels across a night of drinking, comparing people who had taken red ginseng to those given a placebo. Blood alcohol levels were lower in the ginseng group, and hangover symptoms were less severe.
Korean pear juice may also speed up alcohol metabolism. However, this appears to only be true for people with certain genetic traits.
When to See a Doctor
The occasional hangover is probably nothing to worry about. However, frequent hangovers could be a sign of alcohol abuse and warrant talking to your doctor. Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking too much alcohol too often.
While hangovers don’t require emergency care, alcohol poisoning does. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Passing out or difficulty remaining conscious
- Pale, blue-tinged skin
- Low body temperature
If you or someone you know has symptoms of alcohol poisoning, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.