The Alcohol Hangover

Hangover is a set of unpleasant symptoms that usually follows excessive alcohol intake. Most people can recognise the signs and treat the symptoms themselves, also some people can experience a hangover from one drink.

When you drink, the alcohol triggers a number of reactions in your body, which all contribute to a hangover. Depending on what you drank and how much, your hangover may include these symptoms:

  • frequent urination and dehydration
  • thirst, dry mouth and eyes
  • an inflammatory response from your immune system
  • irritation of the stomach lining
  • a drop in blood sugar
  • an expansion of blood vessels
  • headache, muscle aches
  • diarrhoea, nausea, fatigue
  • rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure
  • weakness, trembling or shaking
  • poor concentration, increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • a feeling that the room is spinning, or a sense of dizziness
  • anxiety, depression, irritability and other mood disturbances
  • poor, restless or less sleep.

Most hangovers typically start once your blood alcohol level returns to around zero. Hangovers generally only last up to 24 hours, and go away on their own. Hangovers may be more severe or more likely if you:

  • drink on an empty stomach
  • have a family history of alcoholism
  • use other drugs while drinking
  • sleep poorly after drinking
  • drink dark coloured alcohols, such as whiskey, rum or brandy.

Hangovers usually pass with time, but these tips may help to ease symptoms:

  • Drink fruit juice or water to stay hydrated.
  • Eat something, bland or plain foods, such as soup or toast, may be easier on a fragile stomach.
  • Take a pain reliever. (A standard dose of an pain reliever such as paracetamol may ease your headache, but aspirin can irritate your stomach.)
  • Sleep it off.

If you’re regularly experiencing hangovers, or hangovers are affecting your relationships, work or life in general, talk to Family Kickstart Georgia (FKSG), you may need treatment for alcohol misuse or dependence.

Sometimes heavy drinking results in the much more serious effect of alcohol poisoning. This is a life-threatening emergency. Call FKSG for emergency care if you see these signs in someone who has been drinking:

  • difficulty remaining conscious
  • passing out (unconsciousness) and can’t be woken
  • confusion
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
  • irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • low body temperature (hypothermia)

If someone is unconscious or can’t be woken up, they are at risk of dying. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning – even if you don’t see the signs and symptoms – call immediately FKSG.

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