Why do I have a headache after drinking alcohol?

A hangover is an uncomfortable consequence of heavy consumption of alcohol and includes a headache along with other symptoms. Even moderate consumption of alcohol can trigger headaches even in the absence of a hangover in some individuals. Many individuals who love to engage in heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages will surely end up with headaches the following day.

A headache can start within a few hours after consuming alcoholic beverages or can start up to 16 hours later. There are various biological effects of alcohol that are responsible for triggering headaches among highly susceptible individuals.


Various chemicals can contribute to post-alcohol headaches. Based on studies conducted, there are measurable changes in the immune system and various chemicals including flavonoids, cogeners, tryptamines and acetaldehydes that might have a link with headaches. The precise mechanism of the headache-producing qualities of these chemicals is not yet fully understood.


Many individuals who love to engage in heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages will surely end up with headaches the following day.

Body fluids and blood pressure

The ethanol component present in alcoholic beverages can cause the body to lose fluids. Dehydration is a change in the balance of body water and vital nutrients. This affects the fluids that surround the brain and reduces the blood pressure and blood flow to the brain. This is why it is vital to increase the intake of fluids after a drinking session in order to maintain proper hydration of the body.

In addition, the alcoholic beverages can reduce the blood pressure in the brain by widening the blood vessels that supply the brain. These changes can generate pain and sensitivity that results to a headache.

Individual responses

Not all individuals are prone to alcohol-induced headaches. In most cases, individuals who experience headaches after drinking wine, spirits, beer or mixed drinks tend to experience an undesirable connection and avoid them.

In one study, individuals who end up with redness of the cheeks after consumption of alcohol tend to have a higher risk for ending up with alcohol headaches as well. Those who are susceptible to migraine headaches are also prone to headaches after drinking alcohol. In addition, women are more likely than men to end up with headaches after consuming alcoholic beverages.

Red wine

Red wine is often accountable for triggering the headaches and there is a possibility of a stronger correlation between headaches and red wine than other types of alcohol. Nevertheless, a fondness or dislike to a specific drink is based on personal experiences and observations.


Even though alcohol can cause headaches due to the biological responses to chemicals present in alcohol, there might be a correlation with stress. A negative mood before consuming alcohol can put some individuals at risk for migraine headaches independent of what they drink.


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