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.
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.
Sometimes, of course, a hangover makes this advice easier to follow.
Advice for regular drinkers
To keep the health risks from alcohol to a low level, if you drink most weeks:
- do not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
- if you want to cut down, try to have several alcohol-free days each week
14 units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.
Know your units
A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units.
Use our guide to find out how many units are in your favourite tipple.
|Type of drink||Number of alcohol units|
|Single small shot of spirits* (25ml, ABV 40%)||1 unit|
|Alcopop (275ml, ABV 5.5%)||1.5 units|
|Small glass of red, white or rosé wine (125ml, ABV 12%)||1.5 units|
|Bottle of lager, beer or cider (330ml, ABV 5%)||1.7 units|
|Can of lager, beer or cider (440ml, ABV 5.5%)||2 units|
|Pint of lower-strength lager, beer or cider (568ml, ABV 3.6%)||2 units|
|Standard glass of red, white or rosé wine (175ml, ABV 12%)||2.1 units|
|Pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (568ml, ABV 5.2%)||3 units|
|Large glass of red, white or rosé wine (250ml, ABV 12%)||3 units|
*Gin, rum, sambuca, tequila, vodka, whisky. A single large (35ml) measures of spirits is 1.4 units.
You can keep track of your drinking using the One You Drink Free Days app.
Page last reviewed: 6 January 2020
Next review due: 6 January 2023