In the split-second before you throw up from drinking, several thoughts flash before you, such as: How did I drink so much last night? Where is the nearest trash can? And when will this misery end? Unlike the other symptoms of a hangover, which can easily be concealed with an over-the-counter pain reliever and a face mask, nausea and vomiting seem to be the hardest to get rid of.
The reason why you get so queasy and puke-y after boozing is actually pretty straightforward: When you drink alcohol, your body produces more stomach acid and delays your stomach emptying in order to accommodate for the irritating substance, according to the Mayo Clinic. Together, this can cause stomach pains, and for some people, vomiting. Regular heavy alcohol consumption can lead to inflammation or swelling of the stomach lining, which is something called gastritis.
Some people tend to barf while they’re drinking, while others vomit the morning after during the hangover. Puking while you’re drinking is a pretty clear sign that your blood alcohol content is in the “severe impairment” or “very drunk” range, and you should slow down and get help. Someone who is throwing up and passed out is at risk of having vomit go down their lungs, which is very dangerous, explains David A. Farcy MD, FAAEM, FACEP, FCCM, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, FL. The best thing to do in that scenario is have someone nearby to watch you in case you do vomit, or call 911, he says. In the emergency room, doctors can administer an IV, give medication to prevent vomiting, and monitor a person’s vital signs until they’re clinically sober, he says.
Puking the morning after drinking when you’re in the throes of a hangover is a different story. Despite many people’s creative individual hangover cures, time and rest are the only things that truly heal the disturbing cocktail of hangover symptoms. To stop throwing up, it’s best to get something in your stomach to raise your blood sugar and calm your hangover shakes. Ideally, you’ll want to eat foods with a hearty combination of nutrients and vitamins, to replenish what you’ve lost. (If you can’t get food down, then sucking on hard candies can give you a little blood sugar boost.) Drinking fluids that contain electrolytes, such as Pedialyte or coconut water, is also key, because vomiting can cause severe dehydration, per the Mayo Clinic.
Otherwise, the only thing you can really do to stop hurling during a hangover is wait it out, find a good spot near a trashcan, and get some sleep — and vow to eat a big meal and drink less the next time you’re around alcohol.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.