Some swear that Pedialyte, the liquid electrolyte beverage meant to rehydrate sick children, is the ticket to curing a hangover. And why not, considering the drink contains more sodium and less sugar than the leading sports beverage. Even the brand itself has learned that consumers are using it for hangover relief: Pedialyte has started to market itself to adults for this exact benefit, using the hashtag #NotJustForBabies on social media.
This sounds likes a real win for anyone who’s had a few too many, but is Pedialyte really the ultimate friend when alcohol has turned to total foe-mode?
The short answer: No. The only real cure for a hangover is time, says Jing Liang MD, PhD, a professor at USC School of Pharmacy.
The longer answer: It’s possible Pedialyte could help quell a hangover faster than other so-called panaceas on the market, Dr. Liang says, but you shouldn’t rely on the beverage to improve the consequences of too much alcohol. “Recovery from a hangover is usually just a matter of time,” she says. “Most hangovers are gone within 24 hours.”
Pedialyte helps cure dehydration—but despite popular belief, dehydration is only one culprit behind your raging hangover headache and queasy stomach. When the liver processes alcohol, it breaks it down into acetaldehyde, “which is considered toxic to the body,” Dr. Liang explains.
Acetaldehyde is further metabolized into acetate, which eventually leaves the body, but the more alcohol you consume, the harder your system has to work to turn toxic acetaldehyde into acetate. Before it’s broken down into acetate, acetaldehyde can cause nausea, rapid heart rate, and a flushed face in some drinkers, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “These chemicals can eventually impair the liver and cause cirrhosis,” Dr. Liang adds.
Still, it can’t hurt to at least address that dehydration. And, turns out, drinking Pedialyte may actually help.
When to drink Pedialyte to get the most benefits
Timing is everything. When it comes to Pedialyte, the drink can be more helpful if consumed before you go to bed, according to Jason Burke, MD, founder and president of Hangover Heaven. While that’s a prescription that can be hard to follow if you’ve already had too much to drink, rehydrating before sleep will lessen your chances of waking up dehydrated.
If you’re choosing between Pedialyte or another electrolyte-infused beverage like Gatorade, Dr. Burke says to go with the former. “I like Pedialyte better than Gatorade, as it has more electrolytes and less sugar,” he says. Nutrition-wise, a 12-ounce serving of Pedialyte has 370 milligrams of sodium, 280 milligrams of potassium, 9 grams of sugar, and 35 calories. The same size serving of Gatorade contains 160 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of sugar, and 80 calories.
Of course, the ultimate hangover cure is abstaining from alcohol entirely. It’s truly the only way to prevent the dreadful side effects of booze. If you do plan on imbibing, however, Dr. Burke says clear or lighter-colored alcohols are less likely to make you hungover. (They have fewer chemicals called congeners than darker-hued drinks. These chemicals are made during the fermenting process and might contribute to or worsen a hangover, according to the Mayo Clinic.) Aspirin or ibuprofen and a nap can’t hurt either.