The NHS has some sagely advice on hangovers, “the best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink.” The only problem is that this is so unrealistic when it comes to New Years that they might as well have told everybody to grind up the horns of six unicorns and mix them into a smoothie with some leprechaun urine. Many have called New Year’s Day National Hangover Day, and with drinking being such an integral part of proceedings the real advice you need is for after you’ve woken up feeling like there are microscopic demons inside you beating up your organs.
The excruciating symptoms of a hangover are primarily the effects of dehydration. You may have noticed that alcohol is a diuretic during your fifteenth visit to the toilets the preceding night. The first port of call in the morning should always be water, and ideally you should have a glass before you go to sleep too. If you’re feeling up for it, mix up half a litre of water with the same amount of water and put in a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. The salt helps your body take on the liquid, the fruit juice helps out your liver and the sugar in the juice is much-needed energy.
Related: The real health benefits of water
Have a fry up
The full English breakfast isn’t technically ideal for hangovers (you could get indigestion), but it provides a much-needed morale boost and does have some benefits. Fat is rich in calories, which helps with your energy levels, but it can only help “absorb” alcohol in any sense if you eat fatty food before drinking, not after. The eggs contain cysteine, however, which is thought to help clear out the acetaldehyde which is responsible for the hangover nausea. Plus, everybody loves a fry up.
Related: How to make the perfect fry-up
Coffee, tea and even soft drinks like coke may seem like a good idea because caffeine has a reputation for perking you up. The problem is that it also dehydrates you, which is the problem in the first place. You’re much better off sticking to water, at least until you’re feeling a little better later in the day.
Related: The health benefits of coffee
If you want to ease your headache or muscle pains, you can opt for some paracetamol-based painkillers. Aspirin could make you feel more sick, so it’s best avoided. Ideally, since your body has plenty to deal with anyway, you should try to cope with the pain without resorting to medication. If you follow the above instructions you’ll start to feel better anyway, but if not then medicine is an option.
Related: Hangover cures you'll never forget
Find a good box set
After some food, plenty of fluids and medicine if things aren’t going well, all you have to do is ride it out. One of the best ways to do that is to watch some relatively mindless TV with friends or family, have a good time and forget about feeling sorry for yourself. With a DVD box set or film, there’s no loud, irritating advertising or schedule to contend with. It’s especially fun if you’re with the people you were drinking with, so you cam reminisce and share your patchy memories.
Go for hair of the dog as a last resort
Hair of the dog is not a good thing. Alcohol is what caused the problem in the first place, and if you use alcohol to fight hangovers then addiction is a very real risk. Replace the word “alcohol” for “heroin” and you’ll see the issue. However, if you’ve taken plenty of reasonable steps already and still feel worse for wear, a little drink can help. This is only a temporary effect, because the hangover will be back, but you’ll feel a little better in the short term. Stick to one drink, though. Really, you’re advised to avoid alcohol altogether for 48 hours after a big session.
Related: Hangover cures: myth or reality?