UMDNJ Experts Suggest Remedies for Holiday Headaches
STRATFORD — The holiday season is a minefield of headache triggers - too much spending, too many obligations to keep, too much food and too much drink. All can cause headaches, but perhaps the most notorious is too much drink.
“Hangover headaches have a long recorded history,” said Dr. Loretta Mueller, director of the University Headache Center at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. “Records from ancient Greece and Rome recommend such cures as raw owl eggs, stewed cabbage and fried canaries. Fortunately, today we know quite a bit more about the science of headaches - what causes them and how best to treat them.”
To avoid a hangover headache, Dr. Mueller recommends:
Drink in moderation. The less alcohol you drink, the smaller your risk of a hangover. Sip alcoholic drinks slowly and alternate them with plain water. The added water will also help to counter the dehydrating effect of alcohol.
Choose drinks carefully. Mixed drinks containing fruit or vegetable juice are better choices than straight alcohol. White wine is a better than red, because red wine contains naturally occurring chemicals that seem to play a role in causing headaches.
Have some honey. Honey provides fructose, a sugar that helps the body to metabolize alcohol. Honey is also rich in vitamin B6 which can reduce hangover symptoms. To avoid a headache, try two tablespoons of honey on crackers or a piece of toast, either before or after drinking. Tomato juice is another good source of fructose.
Eat greasy foods before drinking. Fried or fatty foods aren’t normally a good health choice, but eating them before drinking can help line the intestines, slowing down the body’s ability to absorb alcohol into the bloodstream.
If, despite your best intentions to moderate, you still wake up with a hangover headache, try these remedies:
Drink fluids containing minerals and salts. Alcohol causes the body to dehydrate and a hangover headache is a symptom of the combination of alcohol withdrawal and dehydration. A cup of broth or bouillon will replace fluids without causing nausea. Water and sports drinks are also good sources of re-hydration and you may be able to prevent a hangover headache by drinking extra water before going to bed.
Take a pain reliever. Once you’re out of bed and have started replacing fluids, you can take a pain reliever, preferably an anti-inflammatory type such as ibuprofen, naproxen or buffered aspirin. Acetaminophen, which is less irritating to the stomach, is a reasonable alternative.
Avoid myths. Coffee is not a cure. In fact, while it may momentarily ease the pounding nature of a headache, but it can also act as a diuretic, causing further dehydration. Taking aspirin before going to bed will probably only upset your stomach. Drinking more alcohol in the morning - the legendary “hair of the dog” - is just that, a legend.
Get some rest. Although it may seem like it takes forever, hangovers should only last a few hours, just long enough to resolve to drink less in 2008.
The only sure cure. The only sure cure for a hangover headache is not to drink any alcohol in the first place. If you are going to celebrate with alcohol this holiday season, don’t get behind the wheel of a car afterwards. Alcohol and driving is a dangerous mixture, for you and for everyone else on the road.
To request an interview with Dr. Mueller, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.