HOW many times have you woken up the morning after a boozy night and genuinely been concerned for your health?
You might vow to ‘never drink again’ while spending the day cradling a bad stomach and/or throbbing head.
Many of us have experienced the hangover from hell, but it turns out, some symptoms can be a serious cause for concern.
Dr Joshua Berkowitz, the medical director at IVBOOST UK, says that ethanol, the toxic carbohydrate in alcoholic drinks, promotes diuresis.
This is a process whereby the kidneys are trying to get rid of a bad substance and therefore leads to excess urination.
In turn, it leads to dehydration – one of the main causes of hangover symptoms.
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Dr Berkowitz says: “Alcohol is toxic and irritating to the stomach lining which enhances nausea and vomiting.
“To add to your misery, alcohol is metabolised to an acetaldehyde which is very toxic to the liver and brain and results in a severe, pounding headache – another of the hallmarks of a severe hangover.”
Hangover symptoms to worry about – and when to call 999
Although a mild hangover might just leave you feeling a little fatigued and thirsty, a more severe hangover can lead to nausea, diarrhoea, sweating and severe vomiting, which in turn will lead to severe dehydration.
“Severe dehydration is a symptom to watch out for as it can impair your judgement, balance, cognitive function and metabolism,” says Dr Berkowitz.
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Googling ‘Should I call 999’ when your hangover is particularly horrific might seem like a bit of a joke.
But Dr Berkowitz says: “You should seek medical attention if you note that you have not passed any urine in the previous 10 hours or if you have blood in your vomit or loose stools.
“Seek attention if you have lost your balance or you have blurred vision or if you lose your mental logic and/or start displaying abnormal/bizarre behaviour.”
Previously, young people have been warned that meningitis could be masked by a hangover.
Students are particularly at risk of the disease, which can be deadly if it is not treated quickly and triggers sepsis.
The symptoms can feel like ‘a very bad hangover’ Meningitis Research Foundation says.
This includes a severe headache, fever and vomiting.
But some symptoms unique to meningitis include a blotchy rash that doesn’t go away if you roll a glass over it, a stiff neck and sensitivity to lights.
The NHS says to call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E immediately if you think you or someone you look after could have meningitis or sepsis – which causes confused or slurred speech, difficulty breathing or discoloured (pale, grey, blue) skin and lips.
Why do some people get worse hangovers?
Ever wondered why your friend can bounce out of bed after a heavy night whilst you’re stuck under the sheets feeling rotten?
“Most people are able to tolerate very small amounts of alcohol at any one time but with ‘practise’ their liver and brain and general metabolism learn to tolerate increasing amounts of the toxin,” says Dr Berkowtiz.
“The body and the different organs will produce ever-increasing amounts of the required enzymes to cope with the increasing amounts of alcohol consumed.
“However, this supposed ‘tolerance’ causes damage to various organs, particularly the brain and the liver.
“The severity of your hangover, neurocognitive performance and dehydration are significantly correlated for probably at least 24 hours after your last drink.”
You may think that being sick could reduce the chances of a hangover.
In fact, Dr Berkowitz does say that “if you have a stomach full of alcohol and you vomit”, it could slightly improve your hangover the next day.
However, if you’re sick the next morning when your hangover has kicked in, he says that ‘the damage is done’ and being sick won’t ease it.
Why a hangover can make you ill
Ever found yourself dealing with a cough, cold, or even flu following a big night out?
Dr Berkowitz says it could be due to germs in a crowded nightclub or going home in the cold.
“That said, chronic alcohol abuse will reduce the number of T-cells in the body – these are the white blood cells which serve to tackle and kill off infections in the body," he says.
“If you have fewer T-cells, you have a higher chance of getting an infection.”
Alcohol can cause an inflammatory response in the body which, in turn, slows the progress of immune cells around the body.
“Inflammation can cause pain and chronic disease which will also make you feel unwell,” says Dr Berkowitz.
“In a nutshell, alcohol is toxic to our bodies so while our defence and immune systems are working hard to clear it out, infection and viruses have an easier way in!
“Over time, the damage to your liver and brain will manifest as liver failure (cirrhosis) and brain damage as dementia.
“Prior to this, there may be many years of diminished health, poor metabolism, diminished brain function and reduced immunity as the insidious effects of excessive alcohol consumption take their inevitable toll.”
Swerving a hangover
A key tip for preventing an alcohol is to simply drink less.
But you can make sure to eat beforehand, opt for single drinks and alternate your beverages with water.
“Avoid the strong concentrated drinks like whisky, tequila, cognac and bourbon which contain high levels of toxic chemicals called Congeners, which also contribute to hangovers," says Dr Berkowitz.
“Avoid drinking too many cocktails as these are very sugary and disguise their toxic potential as we tend to gulp them down far too fast!”
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Dr Berkowitz also says that during recovery, it’s best to try and avoid caffeine as this can worsen dehydration.
He says: “Keep fluid levels high throughout the day. Drink even when you’re not thirsty and supplement your fluids and diet with electrolytes.”
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