A hangover (alcohol intoxication) is a mood disorder that begins with severe discomfort, headaches and nausea after heavy alcohol consumption. Most hangovers don’t appear until the next day or a few hours after drinking alcohol. A hangover is to be distinguished from alcohol poisoning.
What is a hangover (alcohol intoxication)?
If various health problems occur after excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, there is usually no need to see a doctor.
A hangover is not a real illness, even if it is characterized by typical symptoms. A hangover can be viewed more as a general feeling of being unwell or feeling unwell. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Alcohol Intoxication.
In addition to the typical discomfort after a night of drinking too much alcohol (beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks, cocktails, etc.), mental and physical disorders can also occur. The performance is greatly reduced with a hangover for at least a day. The term hangover is derived from the old word catarrh, which means inflammation of the mucous membranes.
As can already be assumed, the main cause of a hangover is excessive alcohol consumption. The most typical symptom of headache is due to dehydration of the body caused by alcohol. The alcohol not only deprived the body of water or liquid, but also important minerals and electrolytes.
Furthermore, the alcohol in the blood and in the cells also disturbs the body’s own proteins (denaturation), which can then cause headaches in the brain. Residual alcohol in the stomach and in the blood also leads to nausea and severe discomfort, since the toxins put a lot of strain on the stomach and gastric mucosa.
Finally, the performance of the heart is also disturbed. This leads to an undersupply of the brain with oxygen (result is in turn headaches) and not infrequently also to cardiac stumbling or cardiac arrhythmia.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Alcohol intoxication typically leads to dehydration : the body is deprived of fluids. This is also the case with a simple high – it does not have to reach a pathological level. The hangover therefore usually leads to severe thirst. Other symptoms such as dizziness, low blood pressure and circulatory collapse are also largely due to dehydration.
Many people who have a hangover need to urinate more frequently. They can also suffer from heart palpitations. With certain forms of dehydration, quantitative disturbances in consciousness such as drowsiness, but also seizures and confusion are possible.
Both dehydration and the hangover itself can result in low blood volume. Blood sugar levels may also be low, leading to dizziness and weakness. Typical hangover symptoms also include headaches and poor cognitive performance.
This affects, for example, concentration, short-term memory and logical reasoning. After alcohol intoxication, people often feel generally unwell and ill. Many are sensitive to noise and react primarily to sudden loud noises with increased headaches.
A hangover can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms. These range from rumbling and a sinking feeling to vomiting. Diarrhea occurs less frequently. Some lack appetite and become nauseous at the sight of food. Others feel particularly big appetites.
In most cases, the hangover does not represent a particularly life-threatening situation and therefore does not necessarily have to be treated by a doctor. As a rule, this occurs after excessive alcohol consumption and depends heavily on the amount of alcohol drunk. Those affected suffer from severe nausea, headaches and often have to vomit.
There are also significant disturbances in concentration, so that normal thinking and acting is usually not possible for the patient. Those affected continue to suffer from increased thirst and tremors. In severe cases, alcohol poisoning can occur in addition to the hangover. Those affected may occasionally lose consciousness. In this case, treatment by a doctor is necessary.
Complications usually only arise when the hangover is relatively common and the sufferer develops an alcohol addiction. Internal organs and the brain can be damaged. This damage caused by alcohol is usually irreversible and can also significantly reduce life expectancy. A targeted treatment of the hangover does not have to be done. The symptoms can be limited with plenty of fluids and food. Of course, the person concerned must abstain from alcohol.
When should you go to the doctor?
If various health problems occur after excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, there is usually no need to see a doctor. Signs such as nausea, vomiting, tremors, loss of appetite, headaches or disturbances in concentration, perception and attention are consequences of alcohol, which resolve themselves without medical care. Rest, rest, sleep and an adequate intake of water or other non-alcoholic beverages help to alleviate the symptoms.
After a few hours of relaxation and a restful night’s sleep, the symptoms and the discomfort will gradually disappear. Due to the self-healing powers of the organism and the natural breakdown of pollutants, the disturbance of well-being leads to complete freedom from symptoms within a short time.
Overexertion should be avoided during this time and the supply of oxygen is recommended for support. If the symptoms persist for more than 48 hours, you should see a doctor. There are other diseases that need to be assessed and treated by a doctor.
If the symptoms of the hangover are unbearable or if instead of a decrease in symptoms there is an increase in the discomfort in the following hours, a doctor should be consulted. There seem to be serious health developments that go beyond ordinary alcohol intoxication and require medical care.
Treatment & Therapy
A normal hangover does not need to be treated by a doctor, but goes away on its own after about a day if there is no renewed alcohol consumption. In some affected people, the hangover or its symptoms such as headaches last up to three days.
Although there are some home remedies to treat a hangover at home, their actual healing effects have not been scientifically proven. These include, for example, a hangover breakfast with salted herring, pickled cucumbers and the like. Only compensating for the loss of minerals, such as salt, can have an effect here.
However, it is much more important that the affected person drinks a lot of mineral water or lemon balm tea, cools his head and only eats light food. Fresh fruit with honey has proven to be beneficial for the latter, as it can accelerate the breakdown of alcohol. You should also go out into the fresh air or do light outdoor activities (walking, light gardening).
Well-known medicines containing acetylsalicylic acid, paracetamol and ibuprofen help against headaches and nausea. However, before taking the pharmacist or doctor should be asked about side effects.
Outlook & Forecast
In order to effectively cure your own hangover, you need to know that alcohol leads to dehydration, a disruption in protein metabolism, and the depletion of minerals and electrolytes. Knowing this also explains why drinking plenty of fluids is the easiest way to alleviate the worst symptoms.
A glass of water with baking soda helps the electrolyte balance and neutralizes any residual alcohol. In addition, a typical hangover breakfast with fatty sausage or fish helps the protein metabolism on the jump and a breakfast egg combined with it supports the body in detoxifying after alcohol consumption thanks to the amino acids it contains.
Instead of taking a headache pill, it is advisable to drink strong coffee with a dash of lemon juice. The taste takes some getting used to, but the caffeine not only gives you an energy boost, but also works in combination with lemon against headaches, especially since the lemon juice can also partially neutralize the effect of the alcohol.
Until the selected home remedies take effect, the headache can be relieved with a little peppermint oil on the forehead or with cool compresses and lots of fresh air.
Preventing another hangover at the next party is pretty easy. Eat a fatty meal before drinking alcohol, avoid sugar and drink at least as much water or juice as you consume alcohol.
The prevention of a hangover with alcohol should be obvious, namely the abstinence from alcohol. This is probably the only real effective prevention, but drinking mineral water at the same time as drinking alcohol can also slightly reduce later symptoms such as headaches.
Eating fatty food before drinking alcohol can also have a preventive effect, since the fat in the stomach binds the alcohol like a sponge and only releases it again slowly. However, this can also lead to the person concerned thinking that they are not drunk enough, drinking more alcohol and ending up consuming more alcohol than their body can actually handle. Alcohol poisoning is then very likely.
Another way to prevent is the choice of alcoholic beverages. Cheap and adulterated spirits, inferior wine, and drinking many different types of alcohol can have high levels of toxic fusel alcohols. In conclusion, everyone is advised to only drink alcohol in moderation.
Follow-up care for alcohol intoxication usually begins the next morning, when the alcohol is causing headaches and other symptoms. Drinking plenty of fluids helps those affected to stimulate their metabolism and counteract dehydration. The electrolyte balance comes back into balance with water containing sodium hydroxide.
At the same time, the remaining alcohol in the body is neutralized. Fatty foods increase protein metabolism and accelerate detoxification, so the condition improves. Many sufferers simply take a headache pill. But even without medication, it is possible to drive away the discomfort.
A coffee with lemon juice helps twice. While the caffeine provides an energy boost, the lemon juice with vitamin C neutralizes the alcoholic effect. For headache relief, sufferers can rub a bit of peppermint or lavender oil on their forehead. Cooling compresses and being out in the fresh air are also very useful for chasing away a hangover.
There are also a few helpful preventive measures. Avoiding alcohol is the top priority. With plenty of mineral water and other non-alcoholic drinks in addition to the alcohol, the level does not rise too quickly. A high-fat meal and little sugar also make the body less susceptible to the typical effects of alcohol.
You can do that yourself
If you have a hangover the next morning after a long party, you should drink as much water as possible. In this way, the liquid turnover in the blood is promoted the fastest. Since headaches are often a side effect, the head should be cooled with cold compresses. Drinking plenty of water also relieves the pain. It also helps to drink a glass of water with baking soda dissolved in it as soon as you get up. It is not advisable to take tablets, for example with the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid. These can damage the stomach, which can often lead to stomach bleeding.
An extensive fatty breakfast with sausage or fatty fish such as salmon and herring can also help. Incidentally, sweets such as honey or jam and cocoa can also provide relief. In case of problems with the stomach, the patient should take small sips of herbal tea, for example, peppermint tea or chamomile tea, and later a salty broth with beaten egg in it. To avoid a hangover the next time, it is advisable to drink a glass of water after every glass of alcohol. This trick makes it easier to control the crowd and the alcohol has a much lower chance of acting too fast.