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Image for beating a hangover article Most people have had a hangover at some time. A hangover is a set of symptoms that can happen after drinking alcohol. Symptoms can vary. It depends on the type of alcohol and how much you drink. Symptoms may include a dry mouth, headache, nausea, and upset stomach.

How can you prevent and treat a hangover?

Why Do We Get Hangovers?

Most hangovers happen when a person drinks too much alcohol. They drink until they are intoxicated (drunk). However, some people have a hangover after just a couple of drinks. Hangovers may be due to:

  • The effects of alcohol—such as dehydration, digestive irritation, and disturbed sleep
  • Alcohol withdrawal— a "crash" when there is no longer alcohol in the blood
  • Alcohol metabolism—how alcohol is broken down by the body
  • Non-alcohol effects—other substances in alcoholic drinks, or the use of other drugs

A hangover often begins a few hours after you stop drinking. This is when the level of alcohol in your blood begins to decline. The condition peaks when your blood alcohol level reaches zero. It can last for up to 24 hours.

Can Anything Help a Hangover?

The only real cure for a hangover is time. However, here are some steps that may help you feel better:

  • Drink a large glass of water. Alcohol can make you dehydrated.
  • Eat something bland, such as toast or crackers. It will raise your blood sugar and can help prevent nausea.
  • Try antacids for an upset stomach.
  • Be careful with pain medicines. Do not take acetaminophen with a hangover—it can be toxic to your liver. NSAIDS such as ibuprofen may irritate your stomach.

The Best Way to Prevent a Hangover

The best way to prevent a hangover is to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

Below is a chart to help you calculate your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The lower your BAC, the less likely you are to get a hangover. In the U.S., 0.08% BAC as the legal limit for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). A BAC of 0.04% can result in a DUI conviction for commercial drivers in the U.S.. Keep in mind that you should never drive after drinking.

Men
  Approximate Blood Alcohol Content (%)
Drinks Body Weight (in pounds)
  100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240
0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.02
2 0.08 0.06 0.05 0.05 0.04 0.04 0.03 0.03
3 0.11 0.09 0.08 0.07 0.06 0.06 0.05 0.05
4 0.15 0.12 0.11 0.09 0.08 0.08 0.07 0.06
5 0.19 0.16 0.13 0.12 0.11 0.09 0.09 0.08
6 0.23 0.19 0.16 0.14 0.13 0.11 0.10 0.09
7 0.26 0.22 0.19 0.16 0.15 0.13 0.12 0.11
8 0.30 0.25 0.21 0.19 0.17 0.15 0.14 0.13
9 0.34 0.28 0.24 0.21 0.19 0.17 0.15 0.14
10 0.38 0.31 0.27 0.23 0.21 0.19 0.17 0.16
Subtract 0.01% for each 40 minutes of drinking. One drink is 1.25 ounces (36.9 milliliters) of 80 proof liquor, 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, or 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of table wine.
Women
  Approximate Blood Alcohol Content (%)
Drinks Body Weight (in pounds)
  90 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240
0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 0.05 0.05 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.02 0.02
2 0.10 0.09 0.08 0.07 0.06 0.05 0.05 0.04 0.04
3 0.15 0.14 0.11 0.10 0.09 0.08 0.07 0.06 0.06
4 0.20 0.18 0.15 0.13 0.11 0.10 0.09 0.08 0.08
5 0.25 0.23 0.19 0.16 0.14 0.13 0.11 0.10 0.09
6 0.30 0.27 0.23 0.19 0.17 0.15 0.14 0.12 0.11
7 0.35 0.32 0.27 0.23 0.20 0.18 0.16 0.14 0.13
8 0.40 0.36 0.30 0.26 0.23 0.20 0.18 0.17 0.15
9 0.45 0.41 0.34 0.29 0.26 0.23 0.20 0.19 0.17
10 0.51 0.45 0.38 0.32 0.28 0.25 0.23 0.21 0.19
Subtract 0.01% for each 40 minutes of drinking. One drink is 1.25 ounces (36.9 milliliters) of 80 proof liquor, 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, or 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of table wine.

These charts are only meant to be a guide. Other things can affect your BAC. This includes your age, physical condition, diet, and other drugs or medicines you take.

Women and men process alcohol differently. A woman and man can be the same weight and drink an equal amount of alcohol. However, the woman may have a higher BAC.

Just remember to drink responsibly. Leave your car keys at home and do not overdo it. You can have a drink to celebrate—without the hangover and risk of intoxication.

RESOURCES:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
https://www.samhsa.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Public Health Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Alcohol intoxication. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alcohol-intoxication. Accessed October 29, 2021.

Estimated BAC charts. BRAD21 website. Available at: http://www.brad21.org/estimated-bac-charts. Accessed October 29, 2021.

Hangovers. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/hangovers. Accessed October 29, 2021.

Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board   Last Updated: 10/29/2021