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Overview

Hangover
Hangover

Hangover cures

Splitting headaches, sickness, dizziness, dehydration: anyone who's ever drunk too much knows the consequences of it.

Alcohol is a diuretic (meaning it removes fluids from the body), so drinking excessively can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is what causes many of the symptoms of a hangover.

Alcohol can upset your stomach and give you a bad night’s sleep. You may still have some alcohol in your system the next morning.

Cure myth

Hangover cures are generally a myth. There are no cures for a hangover. There are tips for avoiding hangovers and for easing the symptoms if you have one.

The best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink. If you decide to drink, do it sensibly and within the recommended limits.

To minimise the risk of future serious health problems, the NHS recommends not regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week. To avoid a hangover, don't drink more than you know your body can cope with. If you're not sure how much that is, be careful.

Know your units

You can keep track of how many units you're consuming using the Alcohol Units Calculator or downloading the Change4Life Drinks Tracker app in iTunes and Google Play.

A large glass of wine, for instance, contains around three units. In one evening, that can quickly add up to a lot more than you intended to drink. Here are some examples:

  • a can of standard lager, beer or bitter – 1.8 units
  • a pint of standard lager, beer or bitter – 2.3 units
  • a small glass of wine (125ml) – 1.5 units
  • a large glass of wine (250ml) – 3 units
  • a measure of spirits (25ml) – 1 unit

Follow these tips to keep hangovers away:

  • Don't drink on an empty stomach. Before you go out, have a meal that includes carbohydrates (such as pasta or rice) or fats. The food will help slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol.
  • Don't drink dark-coloured drinks if you've found that you're sensitive to them. They contain natural chemicals called congeners (impurities), which irritate blood vessels and tissue in the brain and can make a hangover worse.
  • Drink water or non-fizzy soft drinks in between each alcoholic drink. Carbonated (fizzy) drinks speed up the absorption of alcohol into your system.
  • Drink a pint or so of water before you go to sleep. Keep a glass of water by the bed to sip if you wake up during the night.

The NHS recommends:

  • not regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week
  • if you drink as much as 14 units a week, it's best to spread this evenly over three or more days
  • if you're trying to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, it's a good idea to have several alcohol-free days each week

Regular or frequent drinking means drinking alcohol most weeks. The risk to your health is increased by drinking any amount of alcohol on a regular basis.

The morning after

If you wake up the next morning feeling terrible, you probably didn't follow this advice. Although there are no real cures for hangovers, there are ways to ease the symptoms.

Treatment involves rehydrating the body so it can deal with the painful symptoms (though the best time to rehydrate is before going to sleep).

Over-the-counter painkillers can help with headaches and muscle cramps. Paracetamol-based remedies are usually preferable, as aspirin may further irritate the stomach and increase nausea and sickness.

Sugary foods may help you feel less trembly. In some cases, an antacid may be needed to settle your stomach first.

Bouillon soup, a thin vegetable-based broth, is a good source of vitamins and minerals, which can top-up depleted resources. Its main advantage is that it's easy for a fragile stomach to digest.

You can replace lost fluids by drinking bland liquids that are easy on the digestive system, such as water, soda water and isotonic drinks (available in most shops).

"Hair of the dog" (drinking more alcohol) does not help. Drinking in the morning is a risky habit, and you may simply be delaying the appearance of symptoms until the alcohol wears off again.

If you've had a heavy drinking session, hangover or not, doctors advise that you wait 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol, in order to give your body tissues time to recover. Sometimes, of course, a hangover makes that advice easier to follow.

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 13/01/2016 10:29:03