How to cure a hangover

Lauren Corona

Feeling better when you have a hangover

Practically everyone who drinks alcohol has awakened with a headache and a queasy stomach after a heavy night out. If you're here trying to learn how to cure a hangover, you might be disappointed to learn that there's no magic hangover remedy to cure what ails you, but you can improve your symptoms.

Rest, hydration and some over-the-counter medications can help you feel more human until the symptoms of your hangover wear off. 

There's no such thing as a hangover cure

You've probably heard friends or family members talk about their magical-hangover cures that usually contain something unpleasant, like raw eggs or a staggering quantity of hot sauce. Before you decide to chug down something gross while you're already feeling nauseated, know that these types of "cures" just don't work. If there was something that could completely take away a hangover, you can be certain it would be packaged up and sold at a vast profit by now. As the Mayo Clinic put it, time is the only sure cure for a hangover. That said, you can manage a hangover to some degree to make yourself feel a little better until time heals you.

How to manage a hangover

Get extra sleep if possible

Your body needs rest to recover, so if you wake up with an awful hangover, try to go back to sleep for an extra hour or two to give your body some additional recovery time. And while you're asleep you're not going to feel the symptoms of your hangover — that's a win-win situation. Of course, there are times when you can't stay in bed due to other obligations, or when you feel so bad that you know you won't be able to drift back off to sleep, in which case get yourself up and try to minimize your symptoms. 

Drink plenty of water

Dehydration caused by alcohol is one of the factors that leads to hangovers, so you should drink plenty of water when you wake up feeling bad after a night of revelry. If you're feeling queasy, drinking too much water too quickly can cause vomiting, so fill up a water bottle and sip it slowly if you need to. If you're reading this with a hangover, it might be too late for you now, but drinking a pint or so of water before you go to bed when you've been on the sauce can help reduce your hangover the next day. 

Settle your stomach

Hangovers can take many different forms, but feeling sick is a common symptom. You may feel slightly queasy, spend the morning vomiting or lie anywhere on the spectrum between the two. Although it won't completely cure your hangover, settling your stomach will play a part in making you feel better. Hydrate more and eat something to further improve your symptoms. Try taking an Alka-Seltzer or another form of antacid to help settle your stomach. Alka-Seltzer also contains aspirin that can help with other hangover symptoms, but be careful not to double up on painkillers if you've already taken some. If you don't find antacids helpful, mint tea and ginger tea — or other ginger-containing products like Tummydrops — have traditionally been used to treat nausea.

Avoid excessive caffeine 

While you might normally brew yourself a strong cup of coffee to wake yourself up in the morning, caffeine is a stimulant and can make you feel worse when you have a sensitive stomach. Instead, reach for non-caffeinated hot drinks, such as herbal teas that will hydrate you without adding to nausea or other gastrointestinal issues. As mentioned above, mint and ginger teas help to settle the stomach, so they're a great choice. If you must drink something caffeinated, tea is a better choice than coffee, because it contains less caffeine and is unlikely to unsettle your stomach. 

Take painkillers

If a headache is a major player in your hangover, it makes sense to take painkillers to try to get rid of it. Simple over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen are a solid choice when you have a hangover. Enteric-coated tablets are best, as they're less likely to unsettle your stomach. However, avoid Tylenol and any other painkillers that contain acetaminophen, especially if you think you might still be slightly drunk, because acetaminophen can cause liver damage when combined with alcohol

Eat something

The thought of eating may not be appealing when you have a bad hangover — especially if you're feeling nauseated — but it can help you feel better. Some people reach for greasy grub when they're hungover, but this can cause you to feel even more sick, so it's better to stick to blander foods, such as toast or saltines. As drinking can cause blood sugar to fall, eating carb-heavy foods can help to give your blood sugar a boost. 

How to avoid a hangover

The only surefire way to avoid a hangover is to drink less. Hangovers often get worse with age, so at a certain point in life, you'll find you can't drink as much as you used to without suffering the next day. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks (though avoid carbonated beverages as these can speed up the absorption of alcohol) and you should find that you will drink less alcohol overall throughout a night out. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, some factors can make you more likely to suffer from a hangover. These include drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, not getting enough or a decent quality of sleep after drinking alcohol and drinking darker-colored alcoholic beverages, as these contain a larger quantity of substances called congeners that might be more likely to cause a hangover.

It's common for people who drink alcohol to occasionally suffer from a hangover, but if you find yourself regularly struggling with hangovers, especially on work days, consider talking to your primary care doctor about how to manage your drinking. 

Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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