Horrendous Hangover or Something More?

Question

I drank too much on Thursday night and ended up vomiting. I woke up the next day with a pretty bad hangover (headache and nausea), which I was expecting. However, it is now 4 days later and I still have nausea, stomach pain and loss of appetite. Do I need to schedule a visit or wait and let it pass?

Answer

Hangovers are frequently experienced among people who drink to intoxication. Alcohol can directly trigger hangover symptoms through its effect on urine production, gastrointestinal tract functioning, blood sugar concentration, sleep patterns, and biological rhythms. The most commonly experienced hangover symptoms include dehydration, fatigue, and headache. Generally, a hangover begins within several hours after the cessation of drinking, as the blood alcohol concentration is falling. Hangover symptoms typically peak when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches zero and may continue for about 24 hours thereafter.

Experiencing nausea, stomach pain, and loss of appetite four days after drinking is unusual. It could merely be a coincidence that you contracted a virus or some other form of infection, and the symptoms from that began around the same time that you were experiencing your hangover. If the symptoms you are experiencing are related to drinking, you could be experiencing a mild form of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal usually occurs after multiple repeated bouts of heavy alcohol use. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms overlap significantly with hangover symptoms and can last up to several days.

If you would like to make an appointment with a healthcare provider or a substance abuse counselor at Student Health & Wellness, call 319-335-8394.

Student Health & Wellness Staff

Written 10/18/10

Updated 05/20/13