Signs of a Hangover

Are you dealing with a troubled teen, defiant teen, or a struggling teen who you suspect is drinking excessively? Do you know the signs of a hangover? Keep reading to learn the symptoms and signs of a hangover, and what other illnesses have hangover symptoms.

When a parent is in the situation of suspecting that his or her teenage child is abusing alcohol, knowing the signs of a hangover in a teenager can help establish this behavior in a teen who is practicing other tricks to disguise teen alcohol use, abuse, or addiction. This article reviews symptoms and signs of a hangover that may be exhibited by a teenager.

What Causes a Hangover?

Hangovers have been described since ancient times. They begin when the blood alcohol level begins to fall off and get worse when it reaches zero. But there is much about them that is not known. For example, the physiology that underlies the condition referred to as a hangover is not well understood. That is, it’s not really understood how a hangover works.

One theory is that signs of a  hangover is the body’s way of withdrawing from alcohol sedation. As the body releases neurochemicals to stimulate the brain in response to the sedative effects of the alcohol, the pulse increases, nausea sets in, tremors appear, and sensitivity to light and sound manifest.

Another theory focuses on acetaldehyde, the toxic substance into which alcohol is broken down by the liver. According to this theory, it is acetaldehyde and its after effects that are responsible for the signs of a hangover.

One thing that is known is that congeners, biologically active compounds included in alcoholic beverages along with the ethanol, can have a distinct effect upon hangovers. More congeners are contained in alcoholic beverages with a darker color, fewer in alcoholic beverages that are lighter. Research comparing the effects of higher congener levels (in bourbon) and lower levels (in vodka), found that, while all subjects who became inebriated were equally cognitively impaired on the following morning, those who drank the alcoholic beverage with higher congener levels suffered from more intense hangover symptoms than did those who drank the alcoholic beverage with lower congener levels.

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of a Hangover?

A hangover affects the whole person, but people respond to hangovers differently, exhibiting more or fewer symptoms. People with a family history of alcoholism tend to have increased hangover symptoms. People who have certain personality traits, such as neurotic, angry, and defensive people, also tend to have more hangover symptoms. These are the signs of a hangover from which a teen is likely to recover without medical assistance:

  • evidence of photosensitivity (light avoidance)
  • eye redness
  • evidence of pronounced thirst
  • sweating
  • tremors
  • vomiting

Other signs of a hangover that may only be inferred from the teen’s activities or what the teen says include:

  • fatigue
  • headache and muscle aches
  • rapid heartbeat
  • vertigo
  • weakness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • anxiety and/or irritability
  • depressed mood
  • decreased sleep
  • nausea

If, however, you find that a teen who you suspect has been drinking has the following signs and symptoms, you should call 911 immediately:

  • acting as if in a daze
  • signs of alcohol poisoning
  • persistent vomiting
  • one or more seizures
  • exceptionally slow breathing or irregular breathing
  • extraordinarily white or blue-tinged skin 
  • very low body temperature
  • unconscious (not able to be roused)

What Are Other Explanations that May Account for Hangover-like Symptoms?

If you think you’ve caught a teen with a signs of a hangover, read this before initiating a confrontation.

There are at least three classes of medical conditions that can cause symptoms similar to those of a hangover:

  • Illnesses with flu-like symptoms, including malaise, vomiting, body aches, and headache: The most common of these include the flu, food poisoning, and chickenpox.
  • Illnesses with headaches: The most common of these include the flu; the common cold; an ear, tooth, or sinus infection; measles or mumps; tonsillitis; and pneumonia.
  • Illnesses with light sensitivity (photophobia): The most common include migraine, disorders of the eyes themselves, and meningitis.


Related Article: Peer Pressure Drinking >>