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How to Beat a Hangover

Image for beating a hangover article Most people have woken up with a hangover at some time or another. Dry mouth, splitting headache, nausea, and upset stomach—you know the symptoms, although they vary, depending on the type of alcohol and how much you drink.

Why Do We Get Hangovers?

Although most hangovers are the result of drinking until intoxication, some people report experiencing a hangover after just a couple of drinks. Not much research has been done on hangovers, but the following factors are thought to play a role:

A hangover typically begins several hours after you stop drinking, when the level of alcohol in your blood begins to decline. Then, the condition peaks when your blood alcohol level reaches zero, but it can last for up to 24 hours.

Hangover Remedies: Fact and Fiction

The only real cure for a hangover is time, but there are a few things that may help you feel better. First, since alcohol acts as a diuretic, increasing urination and causing you to become dehydrated, the first thing you should do is drink a large glass of water. You should also have something to eat. Bland foods containing complex carbohydrates—toast or crackers—will increase your blood sugar and curb your nausea.

Next, check your symptoms. If you feel nauseous or have an upset stomach, antacids may make you feel better. If your head is throbbing, you may want to take a pain reliever. Remember that you should avoid taking acetaminophen during a hangover because it can be toxic to your liver, which has absorbed alcohol. Also, don’t take too much nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, since they may irritate your stomach, making some of your symptoms worse.

Your Best Bet

Your best bet against a hangover is to control the amount of alcohol you drink.

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

Men
 Approximate Blood Alcohol Content (%)
DrinksBody Weight (in pounds)
 100120140160180200220240
00.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.00
10.040.030.030.020.020.020.020.02
20.080.060.050.050.040.040.030.03
30.110.090.080.070.060.060.050.05
40.150.120.110.090.080.080.070.06
50.190.160.130.120.110.090.090.08
60.230.190.160.140.130.110.100.09
70.260.220.190.160.150.130.120.11
80.300.250.210.190.170.150.140.13
90.340.280.240.210.190.170.150.14
100.380.310.270.230.210.190.170.16
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 (%)
DrinksBody Weight (in pounds)
 90100120140160180200220240
00.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.00
10.050.050.040.030.030.030.020.020.02
20.100.090.080.070.060.050.050.040.04
30.150.140.110.100.090.080.070.060.06
40.200.180.150.130.110.100.090.080.08
50.250.230.190.160.140.130.110.100.09
60.300.270.230.190.170.150.140.120.11
70.350.320.270.230.200.180.160.140.13
80.400.360.300.260.230.200.180.170.15
90.450.410.340.290.260.230.200.190.17
100.510.450.380.320.280.250.230.210.19
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 intended to be a guide. Your age, physical condition, diet, and other drugs or medications you are taking can affect your BAC. Women and men metabolize alcohol differently, so a woman drinking an equal amount of alcohol as a man of the same body weight may have a higher blood alcohol level.

Just remember to drink responsibly. Leave your car keys at home and do not overindulge. You can have a celebratory toast without feeling the effects in the morning.

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
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

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

REFERENCES:

Alcohol intoxication. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115687/Alcohol-intoxication. Updated January 17, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2017.

Beyond hangovers: understanding alcohol's impact on your health. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Available at: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm. Accessed March 3, 2017.

Estimated BAC information. BRAD21 website. Available at: http://www.brad21.org/bac_charts.html. Accessed March 3, 2017.

Wiese JG, Shlipak MG, Browner WS. The alcohol hangover. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132(11):897-902.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 3/3/2017