lungs that look hungover

Conquering the Asthma Hangover

Last updated: April 2022

As a general rule, I rarely drink. I prefer to spend my calories elsewhere. I don’t have moral or other objections to responsible drinking. This past New Year’s Eve I found myself in possession of a 12 oz can of Cherry Wheat Ale. I was taking the train and walking home that night.  My firm stance against drunk driving is part of why I rarely drink. I am happy to be the designated driver and nurse a “Dr. Pepper, neat” or a “Shirley Temple on the rocks” all night.

Alcohol trigger

I have occasionally had alcohol trigger my asthma. Avoiding sulfates generally, keep my lungs happy with my night out on the town. I drank plenty of water in addition to my beer to close out 2018. I took two puffs of my rescue inhaler before I started drinking. Whether or not pre-medicating is strictly necessary I’m not sure. I did this pre-medicating because I know alcohol impairs judgment. My 100% sober brain knew my lungs were in good shape when I opened the beer. I don’t trust my slightly inebriated brain will make good decisions about my asthma symptoms. Before I start drinking I always set an alarm to wake me up for the morning dose of my maintenance inhaler.

This particular night I decided to stop with about 6 oz of beer left. I got enough enjoyment out of the beer and stopped short of finishing it. I didn’t wake up the following morning with my lungs on fire or any other adverse effects from a night with a slight alcohol buzz. Whether this is due to the low volume of alcohol consumed or some of my preparations will remain forever a mystery. Overdoing it on alcohol comes at a much lower threshold for my lungs than the rest of my body. Being awoken by my lungs would not have surprised me.

An asthma hangover equals lungs on fire

For me, my asthma hangovers from alcohol are best described as my lungs being on fire. My chest is a bit tight and my lungs just feel awful. A few puffs of my rescue inhaler and a low-key day usually has me bounced back to baseline. I don’t know if this is better or worse than a “normal” hangover.

Some people might say that asthma is limiting my life by keeping me from consuming alcohol. While this is technically true, I don’t see this as a downside. Alcohol has no nutritional value. Most people are very understanding when you tell them you can’t or don’t drink for medical reasons. I tend to distance myself from people who push back on a polite “thanks, but no thanks” on alcohol.

This past New Year I learned that I have a bit of leeway to drink more than just a sip for the taste. It seems like when my lungs are in a well-controlled state I can have half a serving. I haven’t been out on the town since. It is nice to know that I can let loose a bit more without having a horrible asthma hangover.

Do you get a hangover of asthma symptoms when you drink?

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