New Year's Day headache remains alcohol's doing

January 01, 1992|By Jonathan Bor

While scientists puzzle over what causes some people but not others to get migraines, there's no mystery about hangovers.

There's only one cause: excessive drinking.

And one sure prevention: not drinking.

"Alcohol is a toxic substance to many tissues of the body, and in hangovers, it's toxic to the brain and the lining of the stomach," said Dr. Kevin Ferentz, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

That, he said, explains the pounding headache and nausea that can strike a New Year's reveler just hours after putting down his or her last drink. Abstinence is the best prevention, but he said it also helps to space one's drinking across the evening, to mingle food with alcohol and to drink plenty of water.

"I think hangovers are also less likely if one drinks clear, distilled spirits like gin and vodka rather than bourbon and scotch," said Dr. Richard B. Lipton, a neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Once a hangover strikes, the doctors agree, there's little to do but take aspirin or acetaminophen for the pain, and antacids for the stomach upset. Other than that, wait a few hours, or in the worst case, a day. It can take that long to feel better.

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