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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

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

Find out what happens when you have a hangover - the unpleasant consequence of having overindulged. See what can be done to make a hangover better and how to prevent it in the first place.

Read more on myDr website

Alcohol - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages traveling between the brain and the body.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Long weekend drinks and your medicines may be a dangerous cocktail - NPS MedicineWise

The upcoming long weekend may lead some of us to overindulge and NPS MedicineWise is reminding people that alcohol and medicines can be a dangerous cocktail

Read more on NPS MedicineWise 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

What are the effects of alcohol? | Australian Government Department of Health

Alcohol affects everyone. How it affects you depends on how much you drink, your health, your age and other factors. Drinking too much can lead to harmful short-term and long-term effects. It can affect your physical and mental health, your job, your finances, your family and your community.

Read more on Department of Health website

Roadside drug testing - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Roadside drug testing of Victorian drivers and the steps you can take to stay safe.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Blood alcohol levels - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

The levels of alcohol in your bloodstream is referred to as blood alcohol concentration (BAC). BAC is what police test for in roadside alcohol breath tests.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Driving - reduce the risks - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

To drive safely, you need to be mentally alert, have clear vision, good coordination and quick reactions. Alcohol and drugs reduce your ability to do these things well.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Standard drinks - myDr.com.au

An Australian standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol. By counting standard drinks you can keep track of your drinking.

Read more on myDr website

Looking after yourself

Many new dads feel they need to be their familys rock. This can often mean shouldering the pressure that comes with being a dad on their own

Read more on beyondblue 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