How to Prevent a Hangover

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Overview: Hangovers 

You may develop a hangover after a period of heavy drinking.8 A hangover happens when your body processes all of the alcohol you have consumed. At this point, your blood alcohol level drops back down to zero.16

While a hangover is not usually anything serious, it is accompanied by unpleasant physical and mental symptoms.15 

Common symptoms of hangovers include:7

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Poor sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • A sense of the room spinning
  • Liver pain
  • Shakiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability 
  • Mood disturbances
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased interest in usual activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Rapid heart rate

Hangover symptoms typically go away on their own within 24 to 48 hours.9

Symptoms may vary in intensity depending on how much alcohol you consume. What you do, or don’t do, to prevent a hangover can also impact the intensity of it.  

Note: You cannot get a hangover if you do not drink alcohol. (Unless you suffer from auto-brewery syndrome, which can raise your blood alcohol content without consumption).

How to Prevent a Hangover Before Drinking Alcohol

If you are drinking alcohol at night, there are steps you can take to prevent a hangover the next day. 

Here are seven science-backed ways to prevent a hangover after a night of drinking:

1. Drink water. 

Alcohol may make you sweat, urinate, and even vomit. This can cause dehydration.1

Make sure that you drink plenty of water before you go to bed. Staying hydrated helps replenish your body, regulate body temperature, flush out toxins, and prevent inflammation associated with hangover headaches.1

2. Eat some asparagus.

There’s a common myth that eating certain foods can help soak up some of the alcohol. 

While this is not proven, research does show that eating asparagus may help. This is because of the biochemical effects young asparagus shoots and leaves have on liver cells.6

Asparagus extracts can help treat cellular toxicities in the liver after drinking alcohol. The widely available vegetable has even been used as an herbal medicine with anticancer properties.6

3. Get your electrolytes.

Electrolytes are important because they keep you hydrated and energized. They can also stave off hangover symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue.

You can get electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride that you lose from drinking from sports drinks like Gatorade and Pedialyte. 

For example, Pedialyte carries twice the electrolytes as major sports drinks. It also has two times less sugar. Sugar is known to worsen hangover symptoms like dehydration.13

Pedialyte comes in multiple forms: liquid, powder packets, and dissolvable tablets for your water. They also make frozen Pedialyte popsicles.13

Depending on the time, you may not want to drink an energy drink that will keep you from sleeping. You can also get electrolytes from foods and beverages like bouillon soup, bananas, and coconut water.3, 10

4. Get rest.

The only true way to cure a hangover is to give your body time to re-adjust. So do your best to get to sleep or, at least, rest. The more you relax, the easier time your body will have healing.1

5. Take care of yourself.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Follow basic hygiene.

Drinking alcohol hurts your immune system.5 So being mindful of cleanliness can help combat the unpleasant side effects.

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How to Prevent a Hangover While Drinking Alcohol

There are also steps you can take to help prevent a hangover while drinking. 

Here is what you can do while drinking alcohol to spare yourself later:

1. Pace yourself.

Be mindful of not only how much you are drinking, but also how quickly you consume it. Your body requires time to break down the alcohol you drink. Slowing down gives your body time to break it down.

Slowing down will also help prevent you from drinking too much. The more you drink, the worse your hangover can be. So drinking fewer alcoholic beverages at a slower pace can serve you well.

2. Choose your drinks wisely.

It’s true that some drinks can lead to worse hangovers than others. 

For example, drinks that have high congener concentration add flavor, but also add to your hangover.1 One very common congener, methanol, breaks down into formaldehyde and formic acid.4 These are toxins that can take a toll on you.

Congeners are typically found in dark liquors like brandy and bourbon. Some dark beers and red wines are also high in congeners.4

Sticking to lighter liquors and beers with fewer congeners may make you feel better the next day.

3. Drink in moderation.

Don’t drink too much. Instead, stick with the recommended drinking limits.

Drinking in moderation means two drinks maximum per day for men. For women, it refers to no more than one drink per day.2

A standard alcoholic drink equals 14 grams of pure alcohol.2 This can be found in:

  • 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)

4. Do not drink on an empty stomach.

Make sure to eat before and/or while drinking alcohol. Drinking on an empty stomach can be disastrous.11

Drinking alcohol of 20 to 30% on an empty stomach increases the alcohol in your blood more rapidly. For example, when you drink a spirit with 40% alcohol, you will feel drunk faster than if you were to drink a beer of just 3 to 8% alcohol—especially without food in your system.12

Eating carbohydrates while drinking can help.1 Carbohydrates delay the rate of absorption. With carbohydrates, your blood concentration may not reach even a quarter of what it would on an empty stomach.12

Carbohydrates like toast can also raise your blood sugar to a normal level, which drinking can affect.

5. Water down your drinks.

Drinks mixed with water will not hit you as hard. Diluting the alcohol can make it easier to digest and break down.

Just don’t mix your drinks with sparkling water to prevent a hangover. Drinks that are made with carbon dioxide, like cocktails mixed with club soda or champagne, affect you faster. The rate of alcohol absorption is much quicker.

How to Prevent a Hangover After Drinking Alcohol 

Unfortunately, it is not so easy to prevent a hangover after drinking if you do not follow the above steps. Nevertheless, here are some ways to prevent a hangover after drinking alcohol: 

1. Replenish your body.

Alcohol can rid your body of necessary nutrients. Drinking water and getting more electrolytes can help replenish your body.1 It can also help you feel better and more energized after drinking.

2. Sleep it off.

Again, the only real way to cure a hangover is to give it time. There are no miracle hangover cures.

Sleeping can help pass the time and give your body the rest it needs.

3. Drink more alcohol. (This is not recommended)

Drinking more alcohol to prevent a hangover is commonly called “hair of the dog.” Drinking more alcohol prevents your blood alcohol level from dropping to zero — the point at which a hangover hits.1

However, drinking more alcohol is not recommended. Drinking more to cope with the repercussions of alcohol intake in the first place is a dangerous cycle. This method of preventing hangover symptoms is a slippery slope that can lead to alcohol abuse.

The long-term effects of alcohol abuse include:5

  • Weakened immune system
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease 
  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • Pancreas issues
  • Digestive issues
  • Increased risk of some cancers (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon)
  • High blood pressure
  • Learning problems (dementia)
  • Mental health issues (anxiety and depression)
  • Social problems with personal relationships
  • Financial implications
  • Alcohol use disorder

Plus, drinking too much or more alcohol can also make your next hangover worse.

4. Take vitamins.

Vitamins and zinc are associated with less severe hangovers.1 Taking vitamins and supplements can help alleviate hangover symptoms after drinking heavily.

5. Pop some pain relievers.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help hangover headaches.

Note: Do not take acetaminophen (Tylenol). It can have a toxic effect on your liver.1

Summary

  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat replenishing foods
  • Get your electrolytes
  • Give your body much-needed rest
  • Drink slowly and in moderation

If your hangover symptoms are severe or do not subside in a day or two, reach out to your doctor.8

If you or someone you know is experiencing possible signs of alcohol poisoning, call emergency medical help.

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.14

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:14

  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Lack of gag reflex
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty remaining conscious
  • Mental stupor
  • Seizures
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Dulled or delayed responses

Alcohol poisoning can cause more problems than a rough hangover. It can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

Updated on November 16, 2021
16 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. Bananas.” The Nutrition Source, 6 July 2021.
  4. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. “Hangover Prevention.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 21 Nov. 2017.
  5. Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 May 2021. 
  6. Eating Asparagus May Prevent a Hangover, Study Suggests.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 26 Dec. 2012.
  7. Hangover Treatment: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  8. Hangovers.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Dec. 2017.
  9. Hangovers.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  10. Kacie Vavrek. “Is Coconut Water Healthy?Ohio State Medical Center, 27 Aug. 2019.
  11. Mackus, Marlou, et al. “Proceeding of the 8th Alcohol Hangover Research Group Meeting.” Current Drug Abuse Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  12. Paton, Alex. “Alcohol in the Body.” BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), BMJ Group, 8 Jan. 2005.
  13. Pedialyte: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions & Pill Images.” RxList, RxList, 26 Aug. 2021.
  14. Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  15. 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.
  16. Verster, Joris C, et al. “Updating the Definition of the Alcohol Hangover.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 18 Mar. 2020. Verster, Joris C, et al. “Dietary Nutrient Intake, Alcohol Metabolism, and Hangover Severity.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 27 Aug. 2019.

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