Pedialyte is a solution — typically marketed for children — that’s available over the counter (OTC) to help fight dehydration. You become dehydrated when your body doesn’t have enough fluids.
You may have heard of using Pedialyte for the purpose of trying to cure a hangover. But does it actually work? What about other potential hangover cures like Gatorade and coconut water? Let’s investigate.
Pedialyte is a product that’s used to help prevent dehydration in both adults and children. You can become dehydrated by either not drinking enough fluids or by losing fluids more rapidly than you can take them in.
Your body can lose fluid in a variety of ways, such as through:
Some common causes of dehydration include things like:
- being sick, particularly if symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea
- prolonged exposure to heat, such as working outside in hot conditions
- alcohol use
So what’s in Pedialyte that helps it to fight dehydration? There are many different formulations of Pedialyte available, but the classic version contains:
- dextrose, a form of the sugar glucose
- zinc, a versatile mineral involved in many body functions such as proper functioning of enzymes, the immune system, and wound healing
- electrolytes: sodium, chloride, and potassium
Electrolytes are minerals that work to maintain things like your body’s water balance, pH, and nerve function.
Causes of a hangover
There are many things that can contribute to the development of a hangover. The first contributors are the direct effects from the alcohol you’ve consumed. These can be things like:
- Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, causing your body to produce more urine. This can potentially lead to dehydration.
- Electrolyte imbalances. The balance of electrolytes in your body can be thrown out of whack if you pass too much urine.
- Digestive upset. Consuming alcohol can irritate the lining of your stomach, leading to symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
- Drops in blood sugar. A drop in blood sugar can occur as your body breaks down alcohol.
- Sleep disruption. Although alcohol can make you sleepy, it can interfere with the deeper stages of sleep, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night.
Additional things that can lead to a hangover include:
- Alcohol withdrawal. While drinking, your brain adjusts to the effects of alcohol. When these effects wear off, mild withdrawal symptoms like nausea, headache, and restlessness can occur.
- Products of alcohol metabolism. A chemical called acetaldehyde is produced while your body breaks down alcohol. In large amounts, acetaldehyde can lead to symptoms like nausea and sweating.
- Congeners. These compounds are generated during alcohol production, contributing to things such as taste and smell. They can also contribute to hangovers. They’re present in higher quantities in darker liquors.
- Other drugs. Smoking cigarettes, marijuana, or using other drugs have their own intoxicating effects. Using them while drinking may also contribute to a hangover.
- Personal differences. Alcohol affects everyone differently. Therefore, some people may be more susceptible to experiencing hangovers.
Pedialyte and hangovers
If you have a hangover, Pedialyte may indeed help with things like dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and low blood sugar. However, it can’t help with other factors like sleep disruption and stomach upset.
Additionally, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there’s no correlation between the severity of electrolyte imbalance and the severity of a hangover.
The same can be said for the effects of supplementing electrolytes on hangover severity.
You may have seen Gatorade listed as a potential hangover cure. Is there anything to that?
- the electrolytes sodium and potassium
Similarly to Pedialyte, studies haven’t been performed on the efficacy of Gatorade compared to plain water in treating a hangover. Regardless, it may help with rehydration and restoring electrolytes.
So there’s little evidence available to support either Pedialyte or Gatorade as a hangover cure. However, the calorie conscious may wish to reach for Pedialyte, as it contains fewer calories than Gatorade.
But when it doubt, you’ll always benefit from plain water.
While coconut water may help to rehydrate you and provide electrolytes, its effectiveness in treating hangovers when compared to plain water hasn’t been studied.
Some studies have investigated coconut water in rehydration after exercise:
studyfound that coconut water was easier to consume in larger quantities and caused less nausea and stomach upset when compared to water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage.
studyfound that the potassium found in coconut water didn’t have increased rehydration benefits when compared to a conventional sports drink.
Overall, the potential benefits for coconut water in treating a hangover are poorly defined. In this case, it may be best have regular water instead.
What about using Pedialyte to help prevent a hangover?
Alcohol is a diuretic. That means it increases the amount of water you expel via urine, which can in turn lead to dehydration. Since Pedialyte is formulated to prevent dehydration, it makes sense that drinking it before or while drinking could help to prevent a hangover.
However, there’s little evidence available to suggest that drinking Pedialyte is more effective at preventing a hangover than water. In this case, it may be better to just reach for water.
You should always take a break to hydrate while drinking. A good rule of thumb is to have one glass of water in between each drink.
So what actually helps with a hangover? While time is the only cure for a hangover, doing the following things can help to ease your symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids. This could be Pedialyte if you wish, though water is fine, to help fight dehydration. Avoid having additional alcohol (“hair of the dog”), which may prolong your symptoms or make you feel worse.
- Get something to eat. If your stomach is upset, aim for bland foods like crackers or toast.
- Use OTC pain relievers. These can work for symptoms like a headache. However, remember that drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate your stomach. Avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol and drugs containing Tylenol), as it can be toxic to the liver when combined with alcohol.
- Get some sleep. Resting up can help with fatigue and symptoms may have eased when you wake back up.
Hangovers can be unpleasant, so how can you prevent getting one in the first place? The only certain way to prevent a hangover is to not drink alcohol.
If you are drinking, be sure to follow these tips to help prevent a hangover or lessen hangover severity:
- Stay hydrated. Plan to have a glass of water between each drink. Also have a glass of water before going to sleep.
- Eat food before and while drinking. Alcohol is absorbed faster on an empty stomach.
- Choose your drinks carefully. Light alcohols like vodka, gin, and white wine have lower amounts of congeners than dark alcohols like whiskey, tequila, and red wine.
- Be careful with carbonated drinks like champagne. The carbonation can speed up alcohol absorption.
- Know that drink order doesn’t matter. The expression “beer before liquor, never sicker” is a myth. The more alcohol you consume, the worse your hangover will be.
- Don’t go too fast. Try to limit yourself to one drink per hour.
- Know your limits. Don’t drink more than you know you can handle — and don’t let others pressure you to do so.
Pedialyte can be purchased OTC to prevent dehydration. It’s often used as a hangover cure.
Although drinking Pedialyte helps in fighting dehydration, there’s little evidence on how effective Pedialyte is in treating hangovers. In fact, you could probably get similar benefits from just drinking plain water.
Regardless of if you choose water or Pedialyte, staying hydrated while drinking alcohol is a good way to prevent a hangover. However, the only surefire way to prevent a hangover is to not drink alcohol.