Getting a Headache right after Drinking Alcohol?

You’ve had a little to drink – or maybe more than a little – and while you’re still having a good time, the headache strikes.  What’s happening?  Should you be concerned?

Alcohol Headache

Yes, you should be.  If you have a headache within two or three hours of drinking alcohol, you’re experiencing something different from the familiar “hangover”.  In fact, the International Headache Society has classified these as two different types of headache.

The headache that arrives early is known as an immediate alcohol-induced headache.  That doesn’t mean it happens right away, but if it happens within 2-3 hours, it qualifies.  This has sometimes been called the “cocktail headache”.

If these symptoms are new to you, you need to go to your doctor and explain your symptoms and medical history, in order to be sure something serious isn’t behind the headache.

Be sure you tell your doctor about any other headache conditions you have.  It could be that people with tension-type headache, or migraine attacks, may be more susceptible to this rare alcohol induced headache.  It could also be that the alcohol is triggering an attack.

If you have another headache condition, your best first step will be to treat (or continue to treat) that condition.  Getting migraine attacks under control, for example, should improve the situation.

Unfortunately, immediate alcohol-induced headache is notoriously changeable.  You may drink a little one day and get a headache, and drink a lot another day with no problem.  The only way to certainly avoid the headache is to avoid the alcohol.

Do keep a headache diary, paying special attention to any alcohol you’re drinking.  This will help your doctor diagnose you correctly and find a treatment plan which works for you.

Be Sociable, Share!
5 comments… add one
  • Linda Jun 21, 2017

    In the last couple of years, as soon as I have just one sip of alcohol I get a sudden severe headache that feels like I’m being stabbed in the head with lots of pins. It lasts for about 30 seconds and then goes away and generally I’m ok to carry on drinking afterwards. I don’t drink very often, but this never used to happen. What could this be and what should I do?

    • Douglas Palmquist Jun 26, 2017

      go to dr. like the article says since it never used to happen

  • Mark Aug 7, 2017

    Primary Dr not sure. Anyone tell me the right kind of Dr to see?

  • John davi2 Aug 19, 2017

    I been getting a pain in my neck left side and it’s seems to be going to the back of my head and on top had a massage really strong and the masseur said she could feel tightness in the top left of my shoulder these headache have been on and off for a while now any thought please

  • Mary Creighton Dec 30, 2017

    I’ve had headaches like that. I never thought of them as something different from a migraine, as they feel the same. Except when I have more than one drink made with vodka. That will sometimes induce a 9/10 attack with nausea, light, scent and loud noise intolerance, dizziness with chest pain. I have had EKGs that are normal, since these attacks. I have never had that happen from drinking any other alcohol or had chest pain with a migraine, so I just assumed it was an allergy and I just stay away from it. I will be talking to my neurologist about this at my next appointment.

Leave a Comment