Back in the middle ages, there were all sorts of crazy and ineffectual medical treatments: blood-letting to cure sickness, drilling holes in the skull to treat head pain and other brain maladies, and the use of astrology in diagnosis.
Another gem was the treatment for rabid dog bites: some of the dog’s fur would be packed in the bite wound and sealed with a bandage. It didn’t work. (BTW — being vaccinated soon after a rabid bite will prevent rabies but if you wait until symptoms develop you’re toast. Here’s an IFOD with some surprising facts about rabies.)
Even though the hair of the dog rabies “cure” is no longer used, the phrase lives on as a reference to a supposed hangover treatment. The notion is that “the hair of the dog that bit you” — more alcohol — can cure a hangover.
Does it Work?
Does having a drink cure a hangover? No. According to Laura Veach, Ph.D of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, “There’s no scientific evidence that having an alcoholic drink will cure a hangover — it will, at best, postpone one. Taking a drink the morning after may temporarily make you feel better because you’re putting alcohol back into the system, but it doesn’t cure the hangover; it just sort of tricks you by masking the symptoms. They’re going to show up eventually.”
What Causes Hangovers?
According to the Mayo Clinic, hangovers are caused by multiple factors:
- Alcohol causes your body to produce more urine. In turn, urinating more than usual can lead to dehydration — often indicated by thirst, dizziness and lightheadedness.
- Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. Your immune system may trigger certain agents that commonly produce physical symptoms, such as an inability to concentrate, memory problems, decreased appetite and loss of interest in usual activities.
- Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach. Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid and delays stomach emptying. Any of these factors can cause abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
- Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall. If your blood sugar dips too low, you may experience fatigue, weakness, shakiness, mood disturbances and even seizures.
- Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, which can lead to headaches.
- Alcohol can make you sleepy, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night. This may leave you groggy and tired.
Given these causes of a hangover, it makes sense that consuming more alcohol is not an effective treatment.
Effective Hangover Cures
The most effective cure for a hangover is to not drink too much alcohol. Additionally, not drinking on an empty stomach, consuming lots of water while drinking, and avoiding alcohol that contains “congeners” like tequila, cognac, and whiskey are best practices to reduce hangover symptoms.
If you are already hungover what can you do? While the main cure is time as your body processes the excess alcohol, according to Harvard Health, doing the following are possible remedies:
- Drink a lot of water
- Eat some carbohydrates (maybe a take trip to Denny’s?) which will help keep your blood sugar up
- Take pain reliever BUT NOT TYLENOL because “if alcohol is lingering in your system, it may accentuate acetaminophen’s toxic effects on the liver.”
- Consume caffeine
- Take B vitamins and zinc (maybe even start this before an evening of drinking
Dylan is a good boy
Very interesting, esp the listing of the physical consequences of drinking alcohol.