7 proven hangover cures and first aid for alcohol poisoning
Proven tips to help prevent and cure a hangover.
Hangovers make you feel rotten, with symptoms including exhaustion, a pounding headache, nausea, dizziness, thirst and sensitivity to light or sound.
- Limit Your Alcohol Intake
The easiest way to reduce hangover symptoms is to reduce your alcohol intake, as both the severity and incidence of hangover symptoms increase in line with the amount of alcohol you consume.
How alcohol affects you, is determined by many factors; including your body weight, and fat to muscle ration, your gender, when you last ate, what type of alcohol you drink and the period of time you spent drinking. All these factors affect the concentration of alcohol in your blood.
Studies have found that you must reach a peak blood alcohol concentration of 0.11–0.12% to develop a hangover (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5450666/).
Some people only need 2–3 drinks to feel under the influence and then go onto experience a hangover. Approximately 23% of all drinkers are resistant to hangovers altogether (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630704/).
- Drink plenty of water
It is also critical to remain hydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it will increase the amount of water, lost in urine. Hence, why you pee more when you are drinking. You are therefore losing fluid as you drink alcohol and so it is vital to match glasses of water to those of your alcohol intake.
Most of the hangover symptoms you experience are directly related to dehydration. If you can prevent this occurring at the start, then the extent of your hangover will be dramatically reduced.
Remember that if you vomit, that will also contribute to dehydration and so it is vital to replace any lost fluids.
- Line your stomach
Eating before you go out will help ‘line you stomach’ and absorb some of the alcohol, reducing the concentration within your blood.
Boosting your blood sugar is also helpful in avoiding hangovers.
- Sleep well
Sleep deprivation makes it more likely that you will be adversely affected by your alcohol intake. It is common in freshers week for students to get seriously unwell with ‘freshers’ flu’ and end up in potentially dangerous situations following excesses of alcohol.
- Think how you drink – is pre-drink loading really a good idea?
Many young people fill up with budget alcohol before going out. They binge drink to have the intoxicated feeling before going out to a club. Therefore, trying to avoid paying for more expensive drinks when out.
This is not a sensible way to drink and frequently results in hospital admissions and horrendous hangovers.
Alcohol reduces your inhibitions and ‘encourages’ you to take risks.
According to NHS data, last year 337,870 people were admitted to hospital due to an alcohol related incident. 5,843 people died in alcohol specific deaths.
Alcohol accounts for 10-18% of A&E visits and the majority of these are following head injuries.
- Think about what you are drinking
Alcohol is made by fermenting alcohol. In this process sugars are converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol. This process also forms toxic chemicals called congeners. Congeners tend to be found in larger amounts in dark liquors, such as brandy, bourbon, red wine and darker beers. There are fewer congeners found in clear liquors, such as gin, rum and lighter beers and vodka hardly contains any at all. One congener – methanol breaks down into the toxins formaldehyde and formic acid, it is thought that congeners and the resultant toxin by products do play an effect in the extent of a hangover. It is thought that some congeners may slow alcohol metabolism, meaning hangovers could take longer to clear.
- Could having a drink the following morning be of benefit?
Many people swear by hair of the dog! Having a drink the following day to cure your hangover. Amazingly there may be some evidence to suggest that having a drink the next morning could lessen hangover symptoms.
However, it is important to state that this is not recommended as it is not recommended as a treatment for hangovers, as it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and alcohol dependence.
Alcohol affects the way that methanol (a congener in alcohol) is metabolised by the body. As stated earlier, methanol breaks down into formaldehyde and formic acid, which are both thought to contribute to the severity of hangovers. Drinking alcohol is thought to prevent this breakdown and thus the formation of formaldehyde and formic acid. Therefore enabling methanol itself to be safely excreted by the body.
Some supplements such as Red Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Borage oil and prickly pear are also thought to have benefits in reducing the extent of a hangover.
All the above suggestions and proven options to help with hangovers are all very well. However, the only real way to 100% reduce the risk of a hangover is to drink in moderation and keep up your hydration levels.
First aid for someone who has collapsed from an excess alcohol
Please ensure you also have the skills to look after someone is they have collapsed following too much alcohol. It is absolutely vital that if someone is unconscious and unable to maintain their own airway, that you put them into the recovery position and someone stays with them to ensure they do not asphyxiate on their tongue or vomit.
If someone has consumed so much alcohol that they have collapsed; immediately check that they are breathing and then roll them into the recovery position to ensure their airway remains clear. If someone is drunk; it becomes harder for them to maintain their body temperature and they can quickly succumb to hypothermia. If they are outside bring them in, or alternatively, if you are unable to move them, insulate them from the ground and cover them with a coat or blanket. Keep checking they are breathing and that their airway remains clear, especially if they are vomiting.
The effects of alcohol can also make it harder to assess serious signs and symptoms.
If someone has hit their head and they are drunk; they should always be checked out by a medical professional. Anyone who has suffered a serious head injury should be monitored for the next 48 hours to check for any signs of brain injury; this is even more important if they have been drinking or have taken any other substances.
We run practical and online first aid courses and have specific training for teenagers that include first aid at parties and how to help if their friend has drunk too much.
Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life
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