Lamenting the fact that his hangovers were getting worse as he got older, one Slate writer ran to the local drugstore on the advice of musician Jason Isbell. Pedialyte, Isbell told The New York Times Magazine, will get you back to form. “It’s like 10 Gatorades in one bottle.” When he got to the store, he was even more excited to find that Pedialyte comes in freezer pop form.
The next morning, after a night at the bar, Nell McShane Wulfhart needed one of those Pedialyte pops. “Cold, sweet, and refreshing, the pops were the most pleasant way I’d ever found to get fluids back into my body,” he says.
All of that is great, but Pedialyte is really meant to help sick children with the occasional tummy ache, not a lush adult who has bellied up to the bar a couple times too many. So is this the kind of off-label use that works in Pedialyte’s favor?
We use products in ways they’re not intended all the time. The question is whether it enhances the brand or not. Mane & Tail Shampoo was hot for a moment a few years ago, the beauty product in every woman’s shower. Intended for horses, women and beauty experts raved about the bright, shiny effect the shampoo has on a human’s mane.
And then there are the many uses for Botox. It erases wrinkles, is used to treat chronic sweating, it’s talked about as a treatment for facial nerve problems, and it’s also sold for migraines. The Miami Herald has quoted doctors who have seen the joy Botox can bring to patients. All around, it’s a brand that’s talked about in terms of improving people’s lives, even if it’s in a sometimes kind of superficial way.
In terms of sales, Pedialyte could benefit if the whole “hangover cure” thing catches on. But it isn’t a message that the company would necessarily like to take to the public. Slate’s intrepid reporter consulted with a couple of doctors who both said the headache and dry mouth of a hangover can’t be cured by Pedialyte. And if a hangover could be cured, people might drink themselves into some real trouble.
“[D]eveloping a cure might result in people drinking themselves comatose on a regular basis. Hangovers function as a deterrent to overdoing it, and drinking without repercussions could be potentially disastrous in health terms,” Wulfhart writes.
Plus, there’s a Puritan belief in our society, Wulhart says, that if you’re going to drink like a manic, there should be consequences.
So this is a use that Pedialyte will likely steer clear of. But if a hungover shopper picks up a couple of bottles on an early morning drugstore run, the company probably won’t complain.