How to cure a hangover fast: Doctor-approved remedies for the morning after

Throbbing heads, grumbling stomachs and a fuzzy feeling greets many after New Year's Eve celebrations.
Pedialyte bottles
The replacement fluids Pedialyte provides could help relieve hangover symptoms — even if it's a placebo effect, some doctors say — and may be a good option for people too nauseous to eat. Amazon
/ Source: TODAY

For many, celebrating a new year and a new decade involves enjoying a few alcoholic beverages. Well, maybe more than a few. The next day, heads throb, stomachs rumble and everything feels fuzzy. It’s definitely a hangover and the desperate search for a cure begins.

But is hoping for a remedy useless?

Probably.

“Obviously, the best way to avoid hangovers is by not drinking so much,” Dr. Michael Lynch, medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center and emergency department physician at UPMC in Pittsburgh, told TODAY.

There’s not a ton of research on hangovers but experts know that dehydration and inflammation work in tandem to create that icky, rundown feeling.

“A big part of it is dehydration as well as a build-up of some of the alcohol metabolites," he said. “Some of a hangover is an inflammatory response."

Lynch says that thinking ahead could help prevent hangovers. Eating and drinking water in addition to alcoholic beverages can soften the blow. Even chugging a glass of water before bed could help.

“The most tried-and-true methods are probably still the best," said Lynch. "Lots of water" is one of the best ways to prevent or ease a hangover. An anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen the next morning will give some relief in about 30 minutes, although be sure to take with some food to avoid stomach upset.

For some, being selective about what type of alcohol they drink might help.

A study in 2016 found that the color of the alcoholic beverage could contribute to the severity of the hangover. Investigators at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, examined people's reactions to congeners, chemicals which give color and flavor to alcoholic beverages. Dark drinks, such as red wine, brandy or whisky, are packed with congeners while there are fewer in light drinks, such as white wine and vodka.

“Some people find that drinks with high levels of congeners make them feel worse. And there is some evidence supporting this,” Allsop previously told TODAY.

There are other theories as why the hangover is worse with certain types of alcohol. Some suspect that the various additives contribute to a miserable morning after.

“There are sugars and other things like tannins that are present that may contribute to not feeling well, just because you’re overwhelming your system,” Lynch said. “Overall the most consistent predictor seems to be the volume.”

Drinking water while consuming alcohol can help people avoid dehydration.

“Your whole body water supply is diminished,” Lynch explained. “It is like taking a diuretic, which also induces you to urinate more than just the volume you’re taking in.”

Is Pedialyte a hangover cure?

That’s why many people turn to sports drinks, Pedialyte, which some consider the "ultimate hangover cure," or even pickle juice to rehydrate the next day. The salt and sugar bolsters the body’s ability to absorb liquid.

The replacement fluids Pedialyte provides could help relieve hangover symptoms — even if it's a placebo effect, some doctors say — and may be a good option for people too nauseous to eat. Their flavor, too, may encourage people to drink more fluids than they would if they were drinking regular water.

While many swear these drinks banish hangovers, Lynch remains unconvinced.

“I wouldn’t expect Pedialyte to help significantly,” he said.

On thing, Lynch discourages for a hangover: intravenous fluids. Few people need IV fluids to rehydrate, unless they are so ill they cannot keep anything down.

"If you are able to drink fluids, we almost always prefer that people drink their fluids,” Lynch said.

What about supplements, vitamin B or potassium?

Again, there’s no evidence they work.

“If you are deficient in vitamin B or potassium it might help,” he said. “It is pretty uncommon — short of a medical reason or pregnancy — that you would need to supplement.”

While hangovers feel like the worst, they are mercifully short-lived. Lynch worries more about accidents from drunken antics.

“A hangover feels crappy for a day, but injuries and things that happen while really intoxicated can be serious and potentially permanent,” he said. “And that is what we want people to avoid.”