Hive article written by the TSR community

What is a hangover?

Being hungover is something of a catch-all term for feeling terrible after drinking lots of alcohol. It is a common student experience, because uni is often the first time you drink a lot and don't necessarily know your limits, but it's not an inevitable consequence of drinking.

It's not entirely clear what causes a hangover. Many of the symptoms may be caused by dehydration, as alcohol makes you pee more and lose water. Drinking lots of alcohol can also cause a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde to build up in your body and that might be what causes the vomiting and nausea. Immune reactions to alcohol might also play a role, as do your genetics - Asian flush isn't just embarrassing, it can also mean you're more likely to get hungover!

Do I have a hangover, or something else?

Hangovers cause you to feel nauseous, dizzy, tired, headache-y and have "brain fog". You can also vomit, sweat excessively, and get really thirsty.

If you have these symptoms and had a lot to drink the night before, it's quite likely you're hungover. But there are other illnesses that can cause similar symptoms, like a stomach bug, jet lag, or a migraine.

Hangovers should resolve within 24 hours and you should feel better quite quickly after having something non-alcoholic to drink and some carbs. If it doesn't seem to be getting better, or you're worried, call NHS 111 or your GP for advice.

How can I cure my hangover?

There's no magic trick to make a hangover go away (sorry!), but there are things you can do to feel better.

  • Drink water, or another non-alcoholic drink. Sports drinks and fizzy drinks can help replenish electrolytes quickly, as can rehydration salts mixed with water (which can be found in a local pharmacy). Don't drink more alcohol, you're just postponing the problem, and now you've started day-drinking!
  • Eat some carbs. This can be tricky if you feel sick, but a few bites of toast will raise your blood sugar and keep it high. Alcohol can lower your blood sugar and you might not have had much to eat the night before.
  • Take ibuprofen. It will, obviously, help reduce pain. Some sources suggest avoiding paracetamol as it affects your liver.
  • Take an antacid if you feel nauseous. Again, self explanatory!
  • Wait. A hangover should get better within 24 hours. And wait to drink more alcohol - a 48r break between heavy drinking is good for your liver.

Prevention is better than cure - how you can prevent future hangovers

The obvious one is not drinking alcohol at all, but that might be easier said than done! If you are regularly drinking lots of alcohol, having breaks is a good idea though. The NHS advises having several alcohol free days a week, and not drinking more than 14 units spread out over 3 days or more each week (so 2 pints of beer a day over 3 days, for example) Looking up unit guidelines is a good first step in understanding your drinking.

Drinking only in moderation and knowing your own limits can help as well. If you've not drunk alcohol before and don't know your limits, be careful. Make sure there's someone around to look after you.

Eating a large meal before drinking and drinking water or fizzy drinks between alcoholic drinks will keep your blood sugar and hydration high, helping prevent a hangover. Drinking water before bed and having some by your bedside will help too.

Help, I think I need a medical professional!

Good on you for being a responsible friend or drinker!

Call NHS 111 if you're concerned about someone who's ill, but you don't think it's an emergency. Call 999 or take your friend to A&E if you're urgently worried about them - for example if they're unconscious or vomiting blood. It's worth knowing the signs of meningitis (non-blanching rash, stiff neck, and aversion to light for example) as that is a medical emergency that can seem like a hangover. If you're not sure, have a quick look at the NHS website or call anyway. The professionals can direct you to the correct help.

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