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Updated on July 19, 2023
7 min read

Can a Hangover Cause a Fever?

Connection Between Fevers and Hangovers

A hangover typically occurs after heavy drinking. It happens when your body has metabolized all the alcohol in your body, and your blood alcohol levels return to zero.13

It's often accompanied by unpleasant mental and physical symptoms. However, these symptoms can vary from person to person.17

A hangover can raise body temperature and cause fever; however, it is not common. 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.

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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 four of the top causes of hangover fevers:

1. Immune System Response

Drinking alcohol takes a toll on your immune system. About two hours after you drink alcohol, your body’s pro-inflammatory cytokine levels rise.

Cytokines are small proteins that your immune system uses to signal other cells. When cytokines are released after drinking alcohol, it promotes inflammation throughout your whole body.

This inflammatory response can intensify the effects of a hangover and trigger a fever response. However, more research is needed to understand the effects of alcohol on body temperature and inflammatory responses.5, 18

2. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia refers to very low blood sugar. It occurs when your blood sugar levels have fallen below 70 mg/dL.11 Alcohol affects your blood sugar levels by increasing your body’s insulin secretion, lowering your blood sugar.

Extremely low blood sugar levels cause serious problems and can appear to be a stroke or brain injury. But, it is usually readily reversed by adding glucose to the bloodstream.

Low blood sugar is a common hangover symptom. Meanwhile, a fever is a potential symptom of low blood sugar, especially if your blood sugar drops significantly.12

3. Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a medical emergency. It happens when your body loses heat more quickly than it produces it, significantly dropping your body temperature. 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, which refers to a flushing and warm sensation. Alcohol also increases radiation and heat loss.

Vasodilation can make you feel warm because the blood is flowing through the skin where your temperature receptors are. But, having excessive blood flow through the skin causes you to lose body heat, and your core body temperature (the measurement of body temperature inside the body) may fall.

4. Severe Dehydration

The most common hangover symptom is dehydration. Alcohol makes you sweat more, urinate more, and may even make you vomit.

When you sweat and urinate, you lose electrolytes and nutrients. This electrolyte imbalance 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

5. Alcohol Withdrawal

If you're a heavy drinker you may experience alcohol withdrawal when you stop drinking. Some common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Although there's some overlap between the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and hangovers, you should consider talking to a doctor. Alcohol withdrawal is a serious condition that requires medical attention.

How to Prevent Fevers After Drinking Alcohol

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

  1. Drink water while drinking: Water can help regulate temperature, blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, alleviate inflammation, and replenish electrolytes
  2. Pace yourself: Your body needs adequate time to break down the alcohol, so pay attention to how much alcohol you're drinking, and slow down
  3. Avoid drinks high in congeners: Certain drinks that are high in congeners can lead to worse hangovers; these include cognac, brandy, red wine, dark whiskey, and bourbon4
  4. Drink in moderation: Refers to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink a day for women
  5. Don’t drink: The best way to avoid a hangover fever is not to drink alcohol in the first place

What is a Standard Drink?

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)
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How to Treat Hangover-Induced Fevers 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for a hangover.10 However, there are a few ways you can treat a hangover-induced fever.1

The best way to treat a hangover-induced fever is by drinking a lot of water and getting some rest. Staying hydrated helps regulate your body temperature.8

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.8

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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 that are high in sugar
  • Food or drinks that are high in sugar
  • Greasy foods
  • More alcohol

Other Side Effects of Hangovers

Hangovers can have uncomfortable and even painful physical symptoms. Hangovers can also severely impact your productivity and performance at work or school.

Common hangovers symptoms include:9

  • 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 From a Hanover

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to worse hangovers that feel like the flu. Other flu-like symptoms of fevers include:10

  • 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 over 101 F (38.3 C) and you are not otherwise ill (no recent flu or other sicknesses), you should seek medical attention. You should also consult a medical professional if your hangover symptoms are severe.6

If your symptoms don't go away within a day or two, you may have gotten sick from a weakened immune system. In this case, your doctor can help treat your illness.

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

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

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

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.16

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, seek professional help. Alcohol abuse can lead to long-term health complications and even death.

Talk to your doctor about medical treatments. They can provide recommendations for treatment programs that can cater to your needs.

Available treatment programs include:

Summary

A hangover typically occurs after your blood alcohol level returns to zero when your body finishes processing alcohol. It's accompanied by various uncomfortable symptoms including a fever.

There are five possible causes for why you can get a fever during a hangover. Many of these causes involve, increased body temperature, inflammation, and electrolyte imbalances.

Fortunately, a hangover fever isn't life-threatening. However, if you're experiencing extreme or severe symptoms you should seek medical attention.

Updated on July 19, 2023
18 sources cited
Updated on July 19, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. 7 Steps to Cure Your Hangover.” Harvard Health, 2020.
  2. Alcohol Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.
  3. Vavrek, K. “Foods to Avoid When You Have the Flu.” Ohio State Medical Center, 2019.
  4. Hangover Prevention.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017.
  5. Evans et al. “Fever and the Thermal Regulation of Immunity: The Immune System Feels the Heat.” Nature Reviews. Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.
  6. Fever.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2020.
  7. Liebl et al. “Systematic review about complementary medical hyperthermia in oncology.” Clinical and experimental medicine, 2022.
  8. Hangover Treatment: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  9. Hangovers.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017.
  10. Hangovers.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  11. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar).” Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose) | ADA.
  12. Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.
  13. Mackus et al. “Proceeding of the 8th Alcohol Hangover Research Group Meeting.” Current Drug Abuse Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  14. Pereira 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.
  15. Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  16. van de Loo et al. “Susceptibility to Alcohol Hangovers: The Association with Self-Reported Immune Status.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 2018.
  17. Verster et al. “Updating the Definition of the Alcohol Hangover.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 2020.
  18. Van de Loo et al. "Immune Responses after Heavy Alcohol Consumption: Cytokine Concentrations in Hangover-Sensitive and Hangover-Resistant Drinkers." Healthcare (Basel), 2021.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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