View Single Post
Old July 26th, 2008, 12:34 PM
ZenSilk's Avatar
Status: Offline
Hookah Master
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 5,605
Default Hookah Headaches

A hookah headache is by far the most common malady in Hookah Smokers.

It's causes are numerous, ranging from lack of water to Carbon monoxide problems. All the factors causing Hookah Headaches are easily avoidable and fixable.

Hookah Headaches

I know all of you have experienced a good ol' fashion Hookah Headache in your time. Every once in a while there is a new post relating to headaches and migraines after smoking the hookah.

The Unclean Friend
One common factor I have seen is the use of a friend's hookah. You know how clean you keep your hookah (I would hope), but not everyone feels the same way about hygiene. This is a common misconception. Their hookah may smell off, and have black crust on the tray and bowl, and the stem could be covered in hard water stains; but none of these would cause headaches. If a hookah is clean of rust or other signs of improper metal care, it will not cause a headache. Tell your friend to keep his hookah a bit cleaner though, so next time you smoke from it you won't be put off by it's appearance, minimizing the placebo effects on your psyche.

Lack of Water
It is always good to stay hydrated, it keeps your whole body healthy. When smoking hookah, your blood pressure is raised, and your cells are pumping oxygen faster than normal. When your body is not hydrated, the blood cells cannot properly carry oxygen to your organs, leaving you with a lightheaded feeling (most commonly what people assume is a "Buzz"), and leaving you slightly dehydrated. Nausea is a direct symptom of dehydration, and that is when you know that you have gone too far. Also, when you become dehydrated after smoking (not during), your blood pressure drops below the norm, hypotension, which causes many of the symptoms similar to Carbon Dioxide Poisoning (nausea; cold, clammy skin; rapid breath). Many people mix these two problems up, but both are very dangerous. If you feel dizzy, have blurred vision, rapid breathing, fatigue you should seek medical attention immediately.

Avoiding and Fixing This Problem:
The best way to avoid any of these afflictions is to STAY HYDRATED. I cannot stress it enough. The average amount of water one should drink is about 2 liters. When smoking, you should at least be sure to drink 1/2 a liter during your 1 hour session. I would recommend 3 normal sized glasses of water every hour or so.
To fix this problem, when you weren't doing enough to avoid it, you absolutely must get yourself hydrated. If you cannot keep water down, you may need to consult in medical help, assuming your conditions are similar to what is named above. Normally with dehydration, the symptoms go away after hydrating and resting for about 2 hours; or getting a good nights sleep.

The Causes of Hookah Hangovers

Carbon Dioxide

Some of you may already know, but coals release Carbon Dioxide when burned; some more than others. You can usually smell a coal when it is lighting. It's usually strong and unpleasant, and this is a sign that you need to get more ventilation for your lighting area. You should not be able to detect the coal's presence while being lit. Although you cannot smell the CO2, it's there, and it's posing a serious threat. NEVER sit yourself over the lighting coals when you are able to smell them. They do not need to be blown on to light, just use a cover to conduct the heat and light them faster. CO2 poisoning is no small problem. The recommended inhalation level (other than none) is just .1% for continuous exposure. At 5%, you will become unconscious and death in most cases will occur. The human body is in no way built to retain any amount of CO2 for a long period of time. Its is deadly, and is not something to be taken lightly.

Symptoms of CO2 Poisoning:
CO2 poisoning is only deadly at 5%. I want you to notice how one level of symptom helps to bring you to the next level; I will explain in parentheses.
At 1%, you may start to feel drowsy. Next, you start feeling heavy in the chest and you may have more frequent, deeper inhalations (you start to feel drowsy, so you don't realize what is happening until your chest starts to hurt). This is the point at which most Hookah Smokers get to. When you directly inhale from the coals, you may be inhaling a very high amount of CO2, and when you go on doing this for an hour or more you start to get the common symptoms. These include Headache, Dizziness, Visual or Hearing problems, and Nausea. Instead of slowly inhaling CO2 for three hours or more, you inhale a large amount all at once, causing those symptoms.

Avoiding and Fixing These Problems:
Open ANY and ALL windows while lighting, or even better, light OUTSIDE. Personally, I smoke inside of a garage, and I open both doors completely while no one is present in the room. I do not let anyone in the garage while the coals are lighting. At the first sign of Dizziness, stop and drink a glass of water. Wait at least 5 minutes before inhaling again. The main and most commonly ignored symptom is Drowsiness. If you start to feel drowsy, you are inhaling CO2. This is when you know that you either need to light the coals a little more, or you need new ones. If your chest starts to get heavy or painful, and your breathing deep, then stop immediately. Never keep smoking if any of these problems occur.
If these problems present themselves as a minor headache (it will be minor at first), or nausea then you know you have inhaled too much CO2 and you are about to pay dearly for it. You may have to throw up (most of the time you will feel nauseous but you will not need to throw up). If you have to throw up, go for it. Immediately after-wards while you feel good you MUST drink as much water as you can hold. Don't worry about over-drinking or not holding it down, if you throw up again just drink more. If you have the throw up, you are in for painful next day. If you don't have to throw up, then you MUST drink as much water as you can. Before you sleep, eat something easy on your stomach like bread; a PB&J is more then perfect. I recommend you sleep in a room that has many openings for fresh air. You're gonna need it, and it's gonna help. The next day is going to be one full day of a migraine, what I like to call a "Hookah Hangover". If you think a normal hangover is bad, wait til you get one of these (try not to). The headache will last the whole day, unless you have strong painkillers available.

Lack of Water vs. Carbon Dioxide Poisoning:
There is one main difference between the symptoms of these two afflictions. The Headache. Yes, the problems related to lack of water do in fact cause a headache eventually, but not immediately. A CO2 problem almost always causes a headache immediately, and it does not go away.


Basically, you should always stay over-hydrated while smoking Hookah. If you become afflicted with drowsiness or a headache, you should stop smoking immediately. It is also a good idea to have food on-hand, fruit is the best.

Be careful you guys and gals,
Happy Smoking!
Reply With Quote