Long COVID could be the cause of your bad hangovers, study finds: ‘Bad reaction’

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Drinking too much is often a recipe for a morning-after disaster.

But for long COVID patients, hangover symptoms might be much worse, according to research.

A small study by Stanford University, which was published in the journal Cureus, examined alcohol sensitivity in four people with post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), or long COVID.

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Two patients reported worse headaches after drinking the same amount of alcohol they would have consumed prior to having COVID.

One patient, a 40-year-old woman with a history of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type III, asthma, anemia, hypotension and migraines, claimed that she could tolerate seven mixed drinks containing hard liquor in one night before long COVID struck.

Man with hangover

For long COVID patients, hangover symptoms might be much worse, according to new research from Stanford University. (iStock)

But ever since getting COVID, the woman reported that her hangovers feel like she “suffers from alcohol poisoning after drinking even small amounts of alcohol and feels ‘terrible’ for several days after consumption,” the study reported.

The woman noted that her tolerance had decreased so significantly that one beer would result in a “severe hangover, along with exacerbation of PASC symptoms for three days thereafter.” 

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Another patient, a 49-year-old woman with a history of type 1 diabetes, celiac disease controlled by diet, and breast cancer — who consumes several drinks per week — said she noticed a decreased alcohol tolerance after her COVID infection.

After drinking just one glass of wine, she reported experiencing “such a bad reaction that she felt she could not move,” the researchers noted.

Woman quarantine

Some patients reported having worse headaches after drinking the same amount of alcohol they would have consumed prior to having COVID. (iStock)

The woman described her symptoms as “similar to a bad hangover, with a headache, grogginess and ‘overwhelming’ fatigue the next day.”

The research concluded that new-onset alcohol reactions and sensitivity can occur after COVID-19 infection in patients with PASC. 

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“Clinicians assessing PASC patients should inquire about alcohol consumption and tolerance in their social history, as this information can provide insights into potential triggers for worsening symptoms and help guide lifestyle management strategies,” the study suggested.

Stanford Internal Medicine director and study co-author Linda Geng noted how “the clinical observations from this paper raise important questions about the link between long COVID and alcohol sensitivity,” as provided in a statement sent to Fox News Digital.

woman with hangover headache

The research concluded that new-onset alcohol reactions and sensitivity can occur after COVID-19 infection in patients with PASC. (iStock)

“Studying this further might provide insights about the mechanism(s) of long COVID and other post-viral syndromes,” she said. 

“Additionally, patients with long COVID should be cautious about the use of alcohol, and some may feel better if they avoid it altogether.”

“Alcohol can worsen the post-COVID symptoms.”

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel, who was not involved in the study, noted that although this research surveyed only four patients, he also has recognized an increased sensitivity to alcohol in some of his own PASC patients.

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“[This study] builds on previous research that in the case of post-viral syndromes (including mononucleosis), sensitivity to alcohol can increase,” Siegel said via email to Fox News Digital.

“I have seen this in some of my patients with post-COVID syndromes,” he went on. “The symptoms are similar: headache, nausea, fatigue, body aches. And alcohol can worsen the post-COVID symptoms.”

Siegel explained that both post-COVID symptoms and alcohol can “lead to inflammation and affect the immune system.”

“And recent research shows that COVID can lead to some leakiness in the blood brain barrier so that inflammatory chemicals (including those from alcohol) can get into the brain at least temporarily, causing headache, nausea and dizziness,” he said.

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Bala Munipalli, M.D., an internist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, also weighed in on this study, noting to Fox News Digital that post-viral persistence of symptoms is “not unique to COVID-19.”

Munipalli was also not involved in the study.

“We have seen this occurring since the 1918 Spanish flu, and saw it with SARS-CoV-1 in 2003 and with Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012,” she said. 

Sad man in mask

“Recent research shows that COVID can lead to some leakiness in the blood brain barrier so that inflammatory chemicals (including those from alcohol) can get into the brain at least temporarily, causing headache, nausea and dizziness,” a doctor said. (iStock)

“Individuals with PASC have shared symptoms with ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, mast cell activation syndrome, and dysautonomia: fatigue, brain fog, un-refreshing sleep, myalgias, and food and medication sensitivities,” Munipalli added.

In each of the syndromes mentioned, Munipalli detailed how the brain processes sensory input faster, causing the sensory signals to become “amplified and more widespread as more areas of the brain become activated.” 

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“This results in the central nervous system becoming sensitized,” she said. “And I suspect this is what is happening with patients who have PASC and demonstrate alcohol sensitivity.”

Anyone experiencing symptoms of alcohol use disorder should seek help from a doctor, therapist or counselor, experts recommend.

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