Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Hangover ‘cures’

4-minute read

A hangover is when you have a bad headache, sickness, dizziness and dehydration after drinking alcohol. Usually, the more your drink, the worse the hangover will be.

Hangovers usually get better by themselves. The best treatment is prevention: don’t drink, and if you decide to drink, do it sensibly and within the recommended limits.

What is a hangover?

Some people get a hangover after just 1 drink, while others may drink heavily and not experience a hangover at all. It depends on how your body processes alcohol. The symptoms of a hangover are:

  • Headache: Alcohol makes your blood vessels expand, which leads to a headache.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic (meaning it removes fluids from the body), so drinking excessively can lead to dehydration. It is the dehydration that causes many of the symptoms of a hangover, including thirst, dizziness and light headedness.
  • Feeling ill: Alcohol triggers your immune system to release chemicals that cause problems with concentrating, loss of appetite and memory problems.
  • Nausea, vomiting and aching tummy: Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach and increases the amount of acid in it.
  • Shakiness: Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall which can make you weak and tired.
  • Tiredness: Even though you may fall asleep when you drink, alcohol prevents the body from reaching the deeper stages of sleep. You may wake in the middle of the night after drinking heavily. You may even wake up and still have some alcohol in your system the next morning, delaying the onset of a hangover until later that day. This means you may not be safe to drive or operate machinery.

Can you ‘cure’ a hangover?

Hangover cures are generally a myth. There are no cures for a hangover. All you can do is ease the symptoms and wait until it goes away.

Drink water to treat dehydration. Don't drink any more alcohol — it will make you feel worse.

Try to eat some simple food to boost your blood sugar and settle your stomach.

Take pain relief for your headache and go back to bed to sleep it off if you can.

Tips to avoid a hangover

To avoid a hangover, don't drink more than you know your body can cope with. If you're not sure how much that is, be careful.

To minimise the risk of future serious health problems, men and women shouldn't regularly drink more than 2 standard drinks a day. One standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol which is found in (approximately):

  • 250ml full strength beer
  • 375ml mid strength beer
  • 100ml wine
  • 1 nip (30ml) of spirits

In Australia, all bottles, cans and casks containing alcoholic beverages are required by law to state on the label the approximate number of standard drinks they contain.

Once you know how much alcohol a standard drink contains, you can keep track of what you're consuming. You may be surprised a couple of glasses of wine can quickly add up to a lot more than you intended to drink.

Follow these tips to lessen the chances of getting a hangover:

  • Don't drink on an empty stomach. Before you go out, have a meal that includes carbohydrates (such as pasta or rice) or fats. The food will help slow down the body's absorption of alcohol.
  • Drink slowly and don't have more than 1 alcoholic drink every hour.
  • Don't drink dark-coloured drinks if you've found that you're sensitive to them. They contain natural chemicals called 'congeners' (impurities), which irritate blood vessels and tissue in the brain and can make a hangover worse.
  • Drink water or non-sparkling soft drinks in between each alcoholic drink. Carbonated (sparkling) drinks speed up the absorption of alcohol into your system.
  • Drink plenty of water before you go to sleep. Keep a glass of water by the bed to sip if you wake up during the night.

More information on standard drinks can be found at www.alcohol.gov.au. Read more here on Managing your alcohol intake.

Last reviewed: August 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Alcohol hangovers | myVMC

An alcohol hangover refers to the mental, emotional and physical symptoms which an individual experiences after they have consumed alcohol. A hangover occurs when the person has recovered from the intoxicating effects of alcohol that is, when the body has metabolised or processed the alcohol consumed and is sober.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Hangovers: how your body is affected - myDr.com.au

Find out what happens when you have a hangover - the unpleasant consequence of having overindulged.

Read more on myDr website

Congeners in Alcoholic Beverages | myVMC

Congeners are biologically active chemicalsand are often contained in alcoholic beverages, in addition to ethanol, the key biologically active ingredient of alcohol.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Alcohol consumption: Short-term health consequences | myVMC

As the amount of alcohol consumed in a single sitting is increased, the BAC increases proportionately. Once the BAC has surpassed 0.05%, inhibitions are reduced and judgement and movement are impaired.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) - myDr.com.au

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) refers to the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. The more a person drinks the higher their BAC.

Read more on myDr website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Pregnancy and Alcohol risks and effects on the developing baby

The alcohol will reach the developing baby very quickly and its blood alcohol level will be the same as yours

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Alcohol while planning a pregnancy

The alcohol will reach the developing baby very quickly and its blood alcohol level will be the same as yours

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Alcohol during pregnancy

The alcohol will reach the developing baby very quickly and its blood alcohol level will be the same as yours

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Alcohol in the blood - OnTrack

OnTrack offers online psychology services such as free online treatment programs, information and facts about mental and physical health, information and advice on where to get help and access to quizzes with immediate feedback.

Read more on OnTrack website

Alcohol and Driving - OnTrack

OnTrack offers online psychology services such as free online treatment programs, information and facts about mental and physical health, information and advice on where to get help and access to quizzes with immediate feedback.

Read more on OnTrack website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo