Can a Hangover Cause a Fever?

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Connection Between Fevers and Hangovers

A hangover can happen after heavy drinking. It occurs when your body finishes processes the alcohol and your blood alcohol level drops to zero.14

A hangover is accompanied by unpleasant mental and physical symptoms.19 Hangover symptoms vary from person to person.

A fever is not a common symptom of a hangover. However, a hangover can raise body temperature. If you develop a fever while fighting off a hangover, it is important to rest and drink plenty of water. 

If your fever climbs or does not subside over time, contact your doctor. While a low-grade fever is not a cause for concern, it can become dangerous if it gets too high.

Top 5 Causes of Hangover Fevers

There are several reasons why you might develop a fever with a hangover. Some are more serious than others.

Here are five of the top causes of hangover fevers:

1. Immune system response

Drinking alcohol takes a toll on your immune system.18 

About two hours after you drink alcohol, your body’s pro-inflammatory cytokine levels rise. This promotes an inflammatory response, which can intensify a hangover.5

An inflammatory immune system response can also trigger a fever. 

These are closely related bodily responses.5

2. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia refers to very low blood sugar. It occurs when your blood sugar levels have fallen below 70 mg/dL.12

Alcohol affects your blood sugar levels because it increases your body’s insulin secretion. This leads to low blood sugar.

If your blood sugar drops to significantly low levels, you can go into septic shock.16 In this case, a fever is one of the many possible symptoms. 

3. Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a medical emergency. It happens when your body loses heat more quickly than it produces it. Your body temperature drops significantly—and it can happen fast.

About 40 percent of patients with hypothermia develop a fever when their body temperature rises again.7

Drinking alcohol can cause a hangover, which may induce hypothermia. This is because alcohol causes vasodilation—flushing and a warm sensation. Alcohol also increases radiation and heat loss.

Vasodilation can make your body feel warm inside. But your body heat can be low, leading to rapid heat loss.

4. Low blood sugar

Low blood sugar is a common hangover symptom. And a fever is a potential symptom of low blood sugar, especially if your blood sugar drops significantly.13

5. Severe dehydration

The most common hangover symptom is dehydration. Alcohol makes you sweat more, urinate more, and may even make you vomit. All of these factors can cause dehydration.

In turn, dehydration can bring on a fever. When your body does not have enough fluids, it is difficult to regulate temperature.20


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How to Prevent Fevers After Drinking Alcohol

There are several steps you can take to prevent a hangover fever:

  1. Drink water while drinking. Make sure you stay hydrated to help regulate your body temperature. Drinking water can also help alleviate inflammation. Inflammation can contribute to headaches and other symptoms.
  2. Pace yourself. The more you drink, and the more quickly you consume it, the worse your hangover can be. Your body needs adequate time to break down the alcohol. Be mindful of how much alcohol you are consuming, and slow down.
  3. Avoid drinks high in congeners. Certain drinks can lead to worse hangovers. Drinks that have high congener concentration add flavor. But they can also exacerbate hangovers.4
  4. Drink in moderation. Stick to the recommended limits. Drinking in moderation refers to no more than two drinks per day for men. For women, it means no more than one drink per day.
  5. Don’t drink. The best way to avoid a hangover fever is to not drink alcohol in the first place. You cannot get a hangover if you do not drink. (Unless you have auto brewery syndrome, which can raise your blood alcohol content without ever drinking). 

A standard drink equals 14 grams of pure alcohol:2

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (40% alcohol content)

How to Treat Hangover-Induced Fevers 

There are a few ways you can treat a hangover-induced fever. These steps are similar to the above steps to prevent a hangover fever:1

  1. Drink a lot of water. Make sure you stay hydrated to help regulate your body temperature.9
  2. Get your electrolytes. Drink fluids that replenish your body’s electrolytes. This can help to keep you hydrated and more energized. You can get electrolytes in drinks like Gatorade and Pedialyte.8, 15
  3. Give your body rest. The only real way to cure a hangover is to give it time. Make sure that you relax so your body has a chance to heal.9

What to Avoid if You Have a Hangover Fever

If you have a hangover fever, you should avoid the following:3

  • Caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea
  • Sports energy drinks
  • Food or drinks that are high in sugar
  • Greasy foods

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Other Side Effects of Hangovers

Hangovers can be brutal. They come on when alcohol metabolism is finished. And, when they do, they can take a toll on your physical and mental health. 

Hangovers can also severely impact your productivity and performance at work or in school.

Common Side Effects

Hangovers symptoms include:10

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Poor sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Skin flushing
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • A sense of the room spinning
  • Liver pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability 
  • Mood disturbance
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased interest in usual activities
  • Rapid heart rate

Other Flu-Like Symptoms

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to worse hangovers that feel like the flu. 

Other flu-like symptoms of fevers include:11

  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Shakiness
  • Lack of energy
  • Gastrointestinal problems

If your hangover is really bad, you may have run down your body. A hangover can escalate into sickness if your immune system is really weak.

If you develop flu-like symptoms with a hangover, more rest is important. You need to give your body a chance to recuperate.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Fevers usually subside on their own after some time and rest. They are not typically a cause for concern or life-threatening.

However, if your fever reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or above, you should call your doctor. If you experience severe symptoms, you may also want to call your doctor.6

If your symptoms do not resolve within a day or two, you may have gotten sick from a weakened immune system. In this case, your doctor can help treat you for your illness.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have alcohol poisoning, seek emergency medical attention. Alcohol overdose is a medical emergency.

An alcohol overdose can lead to severe health complications and cause death. Do not try to help a person with alcohol poisoning on your own.17

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • No gag reflex
  • Loss of consciousness or difficulty remaining conscious
  • Mental stupor
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy or pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Dulled responses

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, seek professional help. Alcohol abuse can cause a lot more than a bad hangover. Alcoholism claims lives.

Treatment is available. Check out alcohol inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities in your area. Or talk to your doctor about medical treatment and mental health options available to you. 
Support groups can also help. You do not have to go down the road to recovery alone.

Updated on November 16, 2021
20 sources cited
  1. 7 Steps to Cure Your Hangover.” Harvard Health, 30 Aug. 2020.
  2. Alcohol Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Feb. 2021.
  3. Author: Kacie Vavrek. “Foods to Avoid When You Have the Flu.” Ohio State Medical Center, 26 July 2019.
  4. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. “Hangover Prevention.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 21 Nov. 2017.
  5. Evans, Sharon S, et al. “Fever and the Thermal Regulation of Immunity: The Immune System Feels the Heat.” Nature Reviews. Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2015.
  6. Fever.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 May 2020.
  7. Fever After Hypothermia.” Resuscitation Journal.
  9. Hangover Treatment: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  10. Hangovers.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Dec. 2017.
  11. Hangovers.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  12. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar).” Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose) | ADA.
  13. Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Mar. 2021.
  14. Mackus, Marlou, et al. “Proceeding of the 8th Alcohol Hangover Research Group Meeting.” Current Drug Abuse Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  15. Pedialyte: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions & Pill Images.” RxList, RxList, 26 Aug. 2021.
  16. Pereira, Flávia Helena, et al. “Correlation between Body Temperature, Blood Pressure and Plasmatic Nitric Oxide in Septic Patients.” Revista Latino-Americana De Enfermagem, Escola De Enfermagem De Ribeirão Preto / Universidade De São Paulo, 2014.
  17. Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  18. van de Loo, Aurora J A E, et al. “Susceptibility to Alcohol Hangovers: The Association with Self-Reported Immune Status.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 18 June 2018.
  19. Verster, Joris C, et al. “Updating the Definition of the Alcohol Hangover.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 18 Mar. 2020.
  20. What Is Dehydration? Lots of Things Can Lead to Dehydration, Making You Feel Even Worse.” Dehydration Signs, Symptoms & Causes | Pedialyte®.

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