(This article is also available as an audio recording).

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

Alcohol makes you pee more, which can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is what causes many of the symptoms of a hangover.

Hangover cures are generally a myth. There are no cures for a hangover, but there are things you can do to avoid one and, if you do have one, ease the discomfort.

Tips to avoid a hangover

To avoid a hangover:

  • Do not drink more than you know your body can cope with. If you're not sure how much that is, be careful.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Before you start drinking, have a meal that includes carbohydrates (such as pasta or rice) or fats. The food will help to slow down your body's absorption of alcohol.
  • Do not drink dark coloured drinks if you've found you're sensitive to them. They contain natural chemicals called congeners, 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. Fizzy drinks speed up the absorption of alcohol into your body.
  • Drink a pint or so of water before you go to sleep. Keep a glass of water by your bed to sip if you wake up during the night.

Hangover treatment

Dealing with a hangover involves rehydrating your body to help you deal with the painful symptoms. The best time to rehydrate is before going to sleep after a drinking session.

  • Painkillers can help with headaches and muscle cramps.
  • 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. It's also easy for a fragile stomach to digest.
  • You can replace lost fluids by drinking bland liquids that are gentle on your digestive system, such as water, soda water and isotonic drinks.

Things to avoid

Drinking more alcohol, or "hair of the dog", does not help. Drinking in the morning is a risky habit, and you may simply be delaying the appearance of symptoms until the extra alcohol wears off.

If you've been drinking heavily, doctors advise that you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol (even if you don't have a hangover), to give your body time to recover.

If you are participating in Dry January, or would like to hear some tips about reducing alcohol intake, listen to this recording by our Drug and Alcohol Practitioner Stefani.


Updated on: 26/01/2022