On most festive occasions, people consume alcohol in large quantities to keep themselves cheerful and full of merry. However, at the end of the festivities, the troubles of alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin. This is the experience of most alcoholics, a condition normally referred to as hangover.

What is a hangover? A hangover refers to the withdrawal signs and symptoms one develops after an episode of heavy alcohol consumption. The degree of signs and symptoms are experienced differentially from person to person.

These signs and symptoms are physiological and/or psychological.

Hangovers can last for several hours but do not last more than 24 hours. No matter how unpleasant a hangover can be, they eventually go away on their own but sometimes can be fatal. Responsible drinking of alcohol can help avoid future hangovers.

A person may drink heavily and escape a hangover, whereas a single alcoholic drink consumed by some people can trigger a hangover. Irrespective of the variation in occurrence, there are some factors that can contribute to a hangover:

• Your body produces more urine when you consume alcohol. This, in turn, leads to dehydration often indicated by thirst, dizziness, and syncope.

• Your body triggers an immune system response caused by alcohol. Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from the immune system. This affects appetite, concentration, and memory.

• The stomach is irritated when alcohol is consumed. Stomach acid production is raised when alcohol is consumed. This slows down the rate at which the stomach empties itself. This leads to nausea, vomiting, and headache.

• Your blood sugar drops when alcohol is consumed. Blood sugar levels can fall too low leading to experiences of fatigue, weakness, tremors, mood disturbances, and even seizures.

• Sleep quality is often poor. Though most people sleep when drunk, the quality of sleep is often poor. The person would wake up tired and still sleepy.

Based on these interesting facts, when do the symptoms start? Well, the alcohol in your bloodstream after taking an alcoholic beverage is measured with the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC).

The higher the level, the more intoxicated you feel. However, when you stop drinking, the level drops. As the level reduces the symptoms begin to manifest and become worse when BAC levels return to zero.

The reason why people experience hangover is poorly understood. The available research today, most by far agree to an extent that certain factors influence the presentation of hangover from person to person. Some of these factors are; type alcohol, concentration alcohol, duration of exposure to alcohol consumption, genetics, age, sex, etc.

Below are some of the symptoms of hangover;

• Increased heartbeat
• Anxiety
• Body and muscle aches
• Diarrhoea
• Dizziness
• Halitosis (Bad breath)
• Headache
• Dry mouth
• Flatulence
• Fatigue, lethargy and tiredness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Loss of concentration
Depression (dysphoria)
• Irritability
• Moodiness
• Thirst
• Tremors or erratic motor functions

When a person begins to manifest the following symptoms, he or she could have alcohol poisoning. This is a medical emergency and medical help should be sought as soon as possible.

These symptoms are as follows:

• Irregular shallow breathing.
• Confusion or stupor.
• Fits (seizure).
• Hypothermia (A drop in body temperature).
• Syncope (Passing out).
• Vomiting continues which does not cease.
• The skin appears pale and takes on a bluish tinge.

How do you prevent a hangover?

The easiest way to prevent a hangover is to moderate or avoid alcohol intake.

Drinking plenty of water alongside alcoholic beverages or consuming a late-night meal after a session of heavy drinking may also temper the hangover that may occur. Late-night meals could include bland foods such as crackers or bread. These are easy on the stomach and raise blood sugar levels.

Painkillers can be taken but only with a prescription. Most painkillers such as paracetamol and aspirin can have adverse effects on the liver and stomach.
Rest speeds up recovery. Always have some water next to the bed to alleviate any sensation of thirst.