By Roberta Jasina

Afraid a New Year’s Eve headache will be killing you on New Year’s Day? If you don’t handle it correctly, Dr. Joel Saper, a neurologist and founder of the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, said it could actually happen.

Saper issued a warning for holiday revelers: Don’t treat a hangover with acetaminophen, the common ingredient in Tylenol and many cold medications.

“This is a very serious warning,” Saper said. “Acetaminophen in a person who has had alcohol in the past 24, 48, sometimes 72 hours, can be potentially lethal, can cause rapid liver deterioration. So, anybody who’s got some headache over-the-counter remedies that has acetaminophen in it, they should not be using those drugs within at least 72 hours.”

And the warning’s the same if you have just a couple of glasses of wine, champagne or beer to celebrate the New Year.

“Not everybody gets sick … But every year there are many, many stories of cases where the person took, after just having a couple glasses of wine, acetaminophen in one form or another, it can set up this cascade of liver deterioration,” Dr. Saper said.

So stay better safe than sorry and if you feel a hangover coming on, stick to plain old aspirin, anti-inflammatories like Advil, Motrin or Aleve, or use other tried-and-true methods.

What are other ways to avoid a hangover?

*Treat a headache early. Don’t wait until your head is throbbing to take action. “The earlier one takes a potentially effective agent for that headache, the easier it will be to reverse,” Dr. Saper said. “It’s sort of like a physiological avalanche, and the longer that avalanche occurs, the harder it is to stop it.”

*Ward off hangovers, which can be related to dehydration, by drinking plenty of water to flush out the alcohol before going to bed.

*Avoid mixing drinks with diet colas, which Dr. Saper said can not only cause headaches, they can cause you to get drunker …faster. “Sugar substitutes can actually increase the speed at which alcohol is absorbed from the stomach,” he said.

*Stick to clear drinks. Dr. Saper said lighter beverages like white wine, gin or vodka are less likely to give you a bad headache.

*Don’t mix. Pick a favorite drink and stick with it. Switching between wine, beer, champagne and cocktails is a recipe for next day disaster.

*Eat when you drink. An empty stomach causes alcohol to flow faster through your system, making you feel light headed faster. Food helps absorb alcohol.


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