As I write this, I’m listening to a fascinating Kojo Namdi show on Irish culture. An Irish guest is patiently explaining to the American listeners that St. Patrick’s Day is typically a time for family-oriented get togethers in Ireland. He is contrasting Irish celebrations to those in the U.S. Here going out drinking – often to excess – is a common way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. (He's not naive about Irish drinking or alcohol problems in general.)
Hangovers are not something you usually want to discuss with your mother. So, here’s my advice as a mother who isn’t yours. If you or your friends are going to celebrate St. Patty's day in a bar - or several bars, read this post and bookmark it. No judgment here about what you do or drink, just a bit of advice on how to make the best of the situation.
Merry groups of drinking buddies - consider having a sober member of the group guide those who have drunk too much safely home. It’s a mitzvah (not the right Gaellic expression perhaps, but you get the point.) Also, don’t leave a drunk person alone to “sleep it off.” While sleep may be the right way to end the evening, someone sober should stay around to help if necessary during the night.
The online world is full of hangover cures. I googled "hangover cure" and got 2.8 million results in 0.45 seconds; the yield for "hangover remedy” found 413,000 results in 0.17 seconds. I looked through a bunch of those entries, most of which were nonsense - or worse. (Much of this information was in a post I did last fall – the facts haven’t changed.)
Of course, it's fun to find out that Hunter S. Thompson's cure was "12 amyl nitrites" (one box) in conjunction with as many beers as is necessary." Hangover foods worldwide vary from greasy, fatty, salty eggs and bacon in the U.S. to pickle juice tipped out of the jar in Russia to a Korean soup that includes cow bones, pork spine and coagulated ox blood.
Tips for avoiding a hangover
- Eat a substantial meal before drinking. The food slows the absorption of alcohol and can lessen the intensity of a hangover.
- Drink slowly and alternate alcohol with water or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks. This will avoid dehydration and give your body time to absorb the alcohol with as few negative effects as possible.
- Stay with one type of alcohol. Mixing beer, wine and/or hard liquor of various types increases the headaches and nausea of a hangover.
- Stick with lighter colored alcohol. The darker the alcohol, the more potential for hangover. Although the scientific research on this is not complete, it makes sense - and fits in with the experience of many who find that red wine tends to produce more of a hangover than white. Dark rum and bourbon also seem to be more hangover-producing than gin and vodka.
- The less you drink, the less your chances of getting a hangover. Duh!
And tips for dealing with a hangover (Also known as "God, please make my head hurt less and while you're at it, can you please make the room stop spinning?")
- Time. - The best and only sure-fire way to treat a hangover is to give it time.
- Dehydration - Drink water to battle dehydration. Also, non-caffeinated sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel can help replace the electrolytes, salt, and potassium lost through dehydration.
- Food - If you can bear the thought of food, eat those that replace lost salt and potassium, and protein-rich foods and complex carbohydrates like eggs and whole grain toast.
- The Don’ts –
You’re still impaired when you are hungover, even if you are no longer technically “drunk.” It's smart to avoid situations that require you to make a good impression until you’re back in good shape, mentally and physically. It's also smart to avoid engaging in conversations (or emails/texting) that you may regret after the hangover passes.
Don't do anything dangerous or that requires coordination - like driving, until you have the hangover well under control.
Don't take a cold shower. (It will further decrease your body temperature and the potential for slipping in the shower and hurting yourself - need I say more?)Don't take any headache medication with acetaminophen like Tylenol - it can interact with the alcohol and harm your liver.) Don't drink caffeine-laden energy drinks or more alcohol. (See myths below.)
Finally, busting a few hangover remedy/cure myths
- Vitamin B. There is no scientifically accepted evidence that taking huge amounts of vitamin B cures a hangover.
- Exercise after drinking. It makes sense to stay awake (without caffeine) until the effects of the hangover have begun to subside, but there is no evidence that you can exercise a hangover away.
- Eating foods containing fructose (fruit juice or honey.) Again, there is just no scientific evidence that this helps.
- Hair of the dog. Come now. Does drinking more to cure drinking too much (or getting revved up on caffeine when your head feels like it is going to explode) really sound like a good idea to you?
Wishing you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day (and the day after too!)