I can feel the rumbling of my stomach as I simply remember the last time I succumbed to hookah sickness. If my work on Hookah.org achieves anything I hope to help you avoid bad sessions and the worst session is one that ends with a night praying to the porcelain god. It’s time to explore what hookah sickness is and how to avoid it.

Avoid Hookah Sickness

The main culprit is nicotine. Nicotine overdose comes with a handful of nasty symptoms.  The most common of which are headaches, dizziness, light sensitivity and a feeling of pressure in the the chest. If you feel any of these to any degree it is time to take a break before you step beyond the event horizon and get KO’d.

This is where things get really nasty. Nausea, vomiting and cold sweats are a terrible way to spend a night and an all to common experience for new smokers. I’ve even heard of some extreme cases including muscle spasms and a few people who have passed out mid session due to blood pressure changes. Simply put, nicotine is a powerful stimulant that needs to be treated with respect and consumed responsibly. I’ll admit that even today I can slip up when smoking very strong tobacco and get a bit queasy but following the simple tips I’ve listed below prevent anything more disastrous.

Now we enter the meat of the article.  How to prevent hookah sickness.

1. Stay Hydrated

Many of the problems associated with nicotine and smoking are made much worse if you are dehydrated. Hydrate well before the session. It won’t do any good if you start drinking only when you start smoking. Your body needs time to absorb and redistribute that water.

2. Eat

Nicotine has far less of an effect on the body if you are well fed.  Don’t stuff yourself to the point of bursting but make sure you have a stomach full of gentle foods. Dried fruit, bread, light protein. Take a look at traditional hookah smoking accompaniment and you’ll see exactly that. Anything overly greasy or heavy could just make it worse.  This is why it’s a good idea to have snacks available while smoking. Also check out our article on Food and Drinks Pairings with Hookah.

3. Pace Yourself

If you are new to smoking don’t hoover the hose.  The hookah isn’t going anywhere and it’s not like a cigarette that keeps burning away if you don’t smoke it.  Take full breaths between every pull off the hookah and allow your body to get some oxygen. Wait a minute or two between deep lung hits and only puff lightly between them.

4. Start Low

Different tobaccos have different nicotine levels.  If you are new to smoking stick to things like Social Smoke and other low nicotine tobaccos.  Everyone has a different tolerance for nicotine but everyone should start light before jumping into brands like classic Nakhla or Tangiers3, which have much higher nicotine content.

5. Give Yourself Time in Between Bowls

You don’t have to constantly be smoking to enjoy hookah.  It’s supposed to  be relaxed and relaxing. Once one session is finished you should get up, move around a bit, snack, take the opportunity to drink some more water and let your body tell you what it needs. Check in with yourself before immediately jumping into the next bowl.

6. Limit Number of Bowls per Day

After years of smoking hookah and cigars I still get a headache if I smoke three bowls in the course of a day. I usually smoke stronger tobacco, so this is understandable but it’s still unpleasant.  If you just started, stick to one bowl until your tolerance builds. Wait until you no longer feel the effects of one bowl a day before having a second. It may never build up so just enjoy the bowl instead of already planning on packing another right after. I’m not advocating that you intentionally force yourself to build tolerance. Quite the opposite. I’d rather smoke one comfortable bowl a week than three nauseating bowls a day.

7. DO NOT Exercise Directly Before or After Smoking

This will raise your blood pressure more than the nicotine alone and can make the effects of nicotine come on sooner and harsher. I like to exercise to keep myself fit and I’ve made this mistake only a few times. It’s a level of discomfort I won’t soon forget.

All in all the basics are eat, drink water, slow down and relax.  Hookah is supposed to be chill so you should do everything you can to make sure it is exactly that. If you’re the host, make sure your guests have everything they need to follow these tips and that you lead by example. Relax. Chill. Smoke hookah.

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10 years ago

So a person with already high blood pressure shouldn’t be smoking hookah at all?

Jarred Kohler
Reply to  Paul M.
9 years ago

There are always the herbal blends, but I would still ask a doctor about those as well.

Jarred Kohler
9 years ago

If it’s a good idea not to have anything in your system that raises your blood pressure or anything that makes you less than relaxed, would I be right to assume it’s probably a good idea to stay away from any coffee products as well?

7 years ago

Thank you for sharing this. It’s a good go-to guide.

Another thing to consider not doing is inhaling the smoke any further than your mouth. I know this is generally a cigar or pipe-smoker’s practice, but sometimes it’s best to play safe.

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