Hangover Headache: Causes, Symptoms, Remedies, And Prevention

You can, after all, lessen the misery of binge-drinking that follows the morning after.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Zeel Gandhi, BAMS Dr. Zeel Gandhi Dr. Zeel GandhiBAMS linkedin_icon
Written by , BCom, Certificate In Natural Medicine Sanchari Bhattacharya BCom, Certificate In Natural Medicine linkedin_icon Experience: 10 years
Edited by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English) Dipti Sharma MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
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The euphoria of binge drinking does not take long to dissolve when you experience a bad hangover the next day. Luckily, you can easily get rid of a hangover headache when you know the right hacks. We all know someone who swears by a hangover cure they recommend, but what works for them may not work for you. Well, look no further. This article discusses a few tried and tested hangover remedies and explains the reasons behind dreadful headaches. Keep reading.

What Is A Hangover Headache?

A hangover headache is like a throbbing headache that is accompanied by a light and sound sensitivity after an episode of excessive drinking. It is one of the most common symptoms of a hangover that begins when blood alcohol levels start to fall within a few hours after you have stopped drinking (1). The symptoms of a hangover usually peak when the blood alcohol level hits zero and gradually resolves itself within the next 24 hours (2).

You can get a headache during a hangover for a number of reasons. Let’s look at some in detail.

Causes Of Hangover Headache

There are a variety of ways in which alcohol interacts with the body and gives rise to a hangover. However, only a few effects have been understood to be responsible for the hangover headache. Even then, exactly how headaches are caused or why remains unknown and requires further study.

  •  Vasodilation Due To Alcohol Intoxication

The ethanol present in alcohol makes the blood vessels dilated and that is considered to be one of the primary reasons behind the headache during hangovers (3). Ethanol is a byproduct of alcohol metabolism in the body.

  •  Alcohol’s Effect On Neurotransmitters And Hormones

Alcohol affects hormones and neurotransmitters like histamine, prostaglandins, and serotonin. All of these are linked to the onset of headaches in some people. For instance, it increases histamine and serotonin levels and blocks prostaglandin inhibitors. Prostaglandins play a role in electrolyte balance, vascular tone, and other metabolic and secretory processes which have been linked with hangover symptoms (4), (5), (6).

  •  Alcohol Withdrawal

The list of common symptoms that are used to assess the degree of withdrawal in alcohol-dependent people includes headache, which is also a common symptom of a hangover. This has led to the hypothesis that the dip of alcohol level in the blood triggers a mild to moderate withdrawal-like state which presents the headache as a symptom (7).

  •  Increased Levels of Plasma Serotonin And Plasma Histamine

Do you prefer red wine or white? If your answer is red wine, that may be a possible reason for the hangover headache. That’s because red wine contains certain yet unidentified agents which lead to a rise in the levels of plasma serotonin and plasma histamine. Both of these, in high amounts, can trigger headaches in some people (8).

  •  Other Effects On The Body

Alcohol affects urine production, the gastrointestinal tract, sleep patterns, and blood sugar levels among other things in your body. While not all of them have been directly studied as a reason for the headache in episodes of a hangover, some of the following alcohol-induced effects may make your headache worse (8), (9):

  •  dehydration and imbalance in electrolytes
  •  gastrointestinal effects
  •  lowered levels of blood sugar
  •  sleep disturbances
  •  additional compounds in alcohol like methanol

As you can see, there are many ways in which alcohol affects the body and mind, and more symptoms that accompany a hangover than the dreaded headache.

Common Symptoms Associated With A Hangover Headache

A hangover headache is usually accompanied by sensitivity to light (9). You may also experience some other hangover symptoms simultaneously, including (10) :

  •  sensitivity to light
  •  dizziness
  •  diarrhea
  •  shakiness
  •  tiredness
  •  nausea
  •  rapid heartbeat
  •  sweating
  •  depression
  •  anxiety
  •  irritability

Simone Bocedi, a blogger, has suffered from a severe hangover and abstained from alcohol. In his blog post, he discussed the effects of hangover on his daily life, and wrote, “Losing my temper with the people around me because of the constant throbbing in my head was something I started to detest (i).”

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Some may experience facial flushing after drinking alcohol due to an inability to break down acetaldehyde efficiently. This reaction is more common in people of East Asian descent.

You may or may not experience all of the symptoms. The more pressing question on your mind may be— how long will it take for the misery of the hangover to end?

How Long Does It Take For A Hangover Headache To Go Away?

Hangovers can extend up to 24 hours after your last drink and you should be able to feel some relief after that duration has passed (11). The duration of your hangover headache may also depend on several factors including how much you had to drink, the type of alcohol you had, your genetic makeup, the state of your liver, and overall health.

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Darker alcoholic drinks like red wine, whiskey, and brandy contain higher levels of congeners, chemicals produced during fermentation. These may worsen hangover symptoms.

While the most effective remedy for a hangover is time, there are a few things you can do to ease your symptoms, including the headache.

Helpful Hangover Remedies

  •  Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications

The quickest remedy for a hangover headache is an over-the-counter drug like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. They have been studied for their potential to reduce headache and muscle pain linked with hangovers. However, you should be careful about taking if you are experiencing nausea or pain in the upper abdomen. NSAIDs are gastric irritants and may compound the effects of alcohol-induced gastrointestinal symptoms (12).

  •  Hydrate

Your body loses a lot of fluid during alcohol consumption, which may leave you dehydrated (13). Dehydration can trigger headaches and some other hangover symptoms. A promising study has found that drinking water may help mitigate a headache and reduce its intensity (14). Although further studies are required on water being a cure for headaches, it can’t hurt to rehydrate yourself. Drink water, Gatorade, juice, and other warm or cold fluids to rehydrate your body and get it back to form.

When it comes to overcoming a hangover, a survey of 1,000 adults from the US reveals that the majority consider sleep (58%) and drinking lots of water (58%) as the most effective remedies. Having a bath or shower is mentioned by 33% of respondents as another method believed to help alleviate hangovers.

  •  Eat Bland Food That You Like And Drink Fruit Juice

Nausea is one of the common symptoms that accompany a hangover headache. Avoid outlandish or gross recipes calling for raw egg or raw fish. Instead, stick to bland carbohydrates like bread or pasta and fruits. That way you can replenish blood glucose levels and essential nutrients to help your body fight off the hangover symptoms (9), (15). Along with having these foods all day, eat a hearty breakfast for your hangover. This will help you regain energy to start your day. For this, avoid cereals as they may worsen the hangover by reducing the activity of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that helps with alcohol metabolism. You may have wheat-based foods as they have no negative effect on the enzyme (16).

  •  Take Vitamin B6

Research suggests that taking vitamin B6 supplements can mitigate some of the symptoms of a hangover. Alcohol is known to lower B6 levels in the body, so to boost up the level, either consume foods rich in B6 like sunflower seeds, chicken, pork, and peanuts or take a supplement (17), (10).

Some people may also find relief from some hangover drinks containing fruits and vegetables. Scroll down to learn about them.

Best Drink For Hangover Recovery

A study found that a beverage made from pear, sweet lime, and coconut water may help with a hangover, as they enhance the activity of alcohol dehydrogenase to speed up alcohol metabolism (16) and also dehydration. Another study suggests drinks with red ginseng and pear juice may help with symptoms like tiredness, nausea, and stomach ache (18). However, these may not cure all hangover-related symptoms.

There really isn’t much you can do besides riding out the hangover, use these hangover remedies, and make notes to prevent the morning after the misery. The next section can help you with useful tips.


  •  Drink water or other non-fizzy drinks in between alcoholic drinks.
  •  Eat during your drinking session.
  •  Limit to 4 drinks if you are a man and 3 drinks if you are a woman.
  •  Drink lighter alcohol like clear rum, vodka, gin, and avoid dark-colored liquor.

Sometimes preventive measures may fail or you may forget to stick to them while drinking. In case that happens and you end up drinking too much, you may need the remedies or medical attention.

When To See A Doctor

Alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose is a serious medical emergency and you should immediately consult your physician if you experience any of these symptoms while or after drinking (19):

  •  confusion
  •  blue or purple skin
  •  excessive vomiting
  •  slowed breathing (inhaling and exhaling fewer than eight times a minute)
  •  10 or more seconds between breaths
  •  chills
  •  seizures
  •  difficulty in remaining awake or conscious

A hangover headache is one of the most common after-effects of drinking too much. While the science is still not too clear, there is some evidence that the metabolism of alcohol in the body is responsible for it. The best cure for a hangover headache is time, a nutritious meal, lots of fluid, and an anti-inflammatory OTC medicine like aspirin. You can prevent a headache hangover in the first place by drinking less and slowly and having your drinks with food and water. It may sound boring, but it can save you a day of misery after the party!

Key Takeaways

  • Hangover headache usually begins when the blood alcohol levels start to come down within a few hours of drinking. It peaks when the levels hit zero.
  • Other reasons like dilation of blood vessels and increase in serotonin and histamine levels also may cause hangover headaches.
  • This headache usually lasts up to 24 hours.
  • Drinking water and eating food in between your drinks, and limiting your alcohol intake may help prevent a hangover.

Consuming alcohol in excess may lead to diverse side effects like a nasty hangover headache. Discover a few really effective tips and remedies to get rid of hangover headaches in the video below. Check it out!

Hangover headache is a common side effect of heavy alcohol consumption. While the symptoms usually resolve within a day, they can be influenced by factors such as the brand, the amount of alcohol consumed, and your overall health. But you can speed up the recovery rate by following these easy home remedies. These remedies are effective as they have pain-relieving and hydrating properties. Replenishing your health with nutritious foods will also help you recover quickly. However, consult your healthcare provider if the condition persists. It is recommended that you limit your alcohol intake or eat something nutritious as you drink to prevent these severe hangover headaches.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do hangovers get worse with age?

As you age, your body metabolism slows down, and it takes longer to break down alcohol.

Does caffeine help reduce hangover headaches?

No, caffeine may further dehydrate your body and aggravate hangover headaches.


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  1. Development of a Definition for the Alcohol Hangover: Consumer Descriptions and Expert Consensus
  2. Proceeding of the 8th Alcohol Hangover Research Group Meeting
  3. Drunkenness Hangover and the Heart
  4. Neurotransmitters in alcoholism: A review of neurobiological and genetic studies
  5. Histamine and Serotonin in Cluster Headache
  6. Prostaglandins in alcohol intolerance and hangover
  7. Brain reward deficits accompany withdrawal (hangover) from acute ethanol in rats
  8. Acetate Causes Alcohol Hangover Headache in Rats
  9. Alcohol Hangover
  10. The alcohol hangover
  11. The Alcohol Hangover Research Group Consensus Statement on Best Practice in Alcohol Hangover Research
  12. NSAIDs in the Acute Treatment of Migraine: A Review of Clinical and Experimental Data
  13. The Effect of Alcohol on Fluid and Electrolyte Metabolism
  14. Increasing the daily water intake for the prophylactic treatment of headache: a pilot trial
  15. Effects of Hangover on Psychomotor Skills Related to Driving: Modification by Fructose and Glucose
  16. Influence of food commodities on hangover based on alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase activities
  17. Vitamin B6 Intake Alcohol Consumption and Colorectal Cancer: A Longitudinal Population-Based Cohort of Women
  18. Interventions for treatment and/or prevention of alcohol hangover: Systematic review
  19. Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose

(i) From Hangovers to Clarity: My One-Year Journey Without Alcohol


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Dr. Zeel Gandhi is an Ayurvedic doctor with 7 years of experience and an expert at providing holistic solutions for health problems encompassing Internal medicine, Panchakarma, Yoga, Ayurvedic Nutrition, and formulations.

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