Commercial hangover concoctions tend to contain similar ingredients - painkillers and antacids. Painkillers (paracetamol or aspirin) help get rid of a headache, and antacids (sodium bicarbonate and other carbonates) help settle an upset stomach. Paracetamol will not irritate the stomach, although aspirin can. If you've got a delicate stomach along with your headache, you may be better off avoiding aspirin. Always stick to the recommended doses on the packet, whatever you're taking.
No two hangovers are exactly the same: how you feel depends on what you've eaten and your general state of health. This means our panel`s experiences won`t necessarily be the same as yours, but the panellists` verdicts, combined with those of a doctor, give some guidance as to what you can expect from a range of cures.
But how can you avoid that hangover in the first place? The kind of advice your mum gave you when you first started drinking is generally the best: don't drink on an empty stomach; avoid drinks that you know from past experience make you suffer; try and eat snacks while you're drinking; and intersperse alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones. This is sound advice to remember next time.
ce THE PANEL Paul Peoples, Craig Nightingale, Glynn Yorke and Neil Haley, who are all members of the Old Bosworthians rugby club in Leicestershire and participate fully in post-match celebrations; Maggie Wright and Joanne Lewis, two party-loving London students; and Dr Ann Robinson, a GP.
ce THE TEST The panel tried out the cures over a period of weeks and rated them for taste, how easy they were to prepare, speed and overall impact of treatment. Dr Robinson didn't try out any of the cures herself but looked at the ingredients in each andgave her verdict based on their likely effectiveness.
ce *FIZZY, SUGARY DRINK 10p-50p a dose ce Some people swear by the hangover-curing properties of fizzy, sweet drinks - especially glucose-enriched brands such as Lucozade. Any sugary, soft drink should help if you're feeling dehydrated. Craig drank some lemonade after waking up with a very dry throat after a party. He rated it highly for taste and speed of effect. The rest of the panel weren't so impressed: "Sugary drinks can make you feel better but if my hangover was more than just mildly irritating, I'd want some paracetamol or aspirin," said Maggie. The verdict seemed to be as follows: if you want more than just rehydration, a fizzy drink isn`t good enough.
ce *PINT OF WATER BEFORE GOING TO BED ce Drinking lots of water before going to bed and when you wake up can help stop the dehydrating effect of too much alcohol. However, Neil wasn't too confident of the ability of water alone to prevent his hangover: "I feel like I`d need more than a pint of water to have any real effect," he said. Maggie agreed: "I didn`t feel too bad when I woke up but I`m sure that was due more to my drinking being relatively restrained than to the water." Dr Robinson advises: "Water is great for rehydration but it won't do much to stop a throbbing head. Keep a glass by the bed, but keep some paracetamol at hand as well for the headache."
**RESOLVE £2.79 for 10 sachets (28p a dose)
ce Paracetamol is the headache-blitzing ingredient in Resolve, and a concoction of antacids is meant to help settle the stomach. Resolve was fairly popular with the panel, as much for its lemon taste as anything else. After a night at the pub, Craig was enthusiastic: "My head felt terrible the next morning but a sachet of this really did make me feel better." Maggie tried it in the morning after drinking wine with a meal, followed by a heavy session in the pub, then drinking whisky into the wee small hours: "Not surprisingly, I felt disgusting and the Resolve didn't do much to help. But given the seriousness of the hangover, it would have been a pretty awesome task for any cure to work," she said. Dr Robinson wasn't particularly impressed. "The mix of antacids is not better than having just one, and I don't know why the manufacturers have added vitamin C - it won't do anything to tackle hangover symptoms. It's sometimes given to alcoholics with vitamin deficiencies, but there's no point in it being inthis."
ce **ALKA SELTZER £2.89 for 30 tablets (19p a dose)
ce An age-old favourite hangover cure, Alka Seltzer contains aspirin for a headache and sodium bicarbonate for a dodgy stomach. Citric acid produces the fizz and helps protect the stomach against any ill-effects from the aspirin. Dr Robinson thought the inclusion of aspirin in Alka Seltzer was still a bit of a drawback: "The sodium bicarbonate is good for coping with an upset stomach and the aspirin should work on the headache, but paracetamol would have worked better."
The panel had mixed views. The Alka Seltzer appeared to have a dramatic impact on Craig's "sicky feeling" after his night at a club: "You could say the effect was immediate - I was sick straight after taking it!" Maggie thought it worked fairly well: "I'd been to two parties in one night and was feeling fairly rough the next day, but this made my stomach feel less troubled," she said.
ce ***SUPERDRUG PARACETAMOL SELTZER £l.45 for 24 tablets (12p a dose)
ce This is a similar product to Alka Seltzer, but contains paracetamol rather than aspirin. The panel gave it a mixed reception. The rugby lads all tried the Superdrug Seltzer the morning after a club annual dinner. "It got rid of the sick feeling mainlybecause I was sick straight after taking it. In fact, two out of four of us experienced the same thing," said Glynn (although this reaction would probably have had more to do with the type of hangover than the cure itself). Dr Robinson preferred the Superdrug Seltzer to Alka Seltzer because of the stomach-friendly paracetamol content: "This cure has the important ingredients of paracetamol and sodium bicarbonate, so it should work fine." The Superdrug Seltzer works out a lot cheaper than the Alka Seltzer, too.
ce ****PARACETAMOL AND WATER £1.15 for 24 tablets (10p a dose)
ce No fizz, no lemon flavour, no other fancy ingredients - a simple hangover cure of water and a couple of paracetamol was Dr Robinson's firm favourite: "If you've got a bad morning-after headache, this is really all you need. The paracetamol should zap the headache without irritating a delicate stomach. It works out a lot cheaper than gimmicky, commercially produced hangover cures and if you're feeling a bit sick as well, drinking plenty of liquid and sticking to bland food should be enough to help," she advised. The trusty paracetamol cure was also very popular with the panel. "This is what I would normally have - along with staying in bed asleep for half the day. It always works for me and I normally feel fine by the afternoon," enthused Jo. After his boozy night at a club with Craig, Paul said the paracetamol made him much better.
ce PRAIRIE OYSTER AND BLACK COFFEE (around 10p a dose, depending on what you've got in the cupboard)
ce A prairie oyster is raw egg, lemon juice, pepper and a spicy sauce such as Worcestershire. This combination of ingredients seems destined to make an upset stomach even worse, so its reputation as a hangover cure is rather a mystery. Jo was bluntly honest: "If I hadn't been doing this as part of a test, this mixture wouldn't come anywhere near me, hangover or not. It was revolting." Dr Robinson said: "The whole concoction will probably make you forget your hangover just because it's so disgusting! Then again, the salmonella risk from the raw egg could be much worse!" The black coffee was the only slightly saving grace - the caffeine could act as a pick-me-up.
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