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Why It's So Important to Drink Fluids When You're Sick

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You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: drink plenty of fluids when you’re sick. And you know what? It’s not just lip service. Here’s a crash course from Kathleen Dass, MD, from the Michigan Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center in Oak Park, MI, on why staying hydrated when you’re sick is so important and how to do it correctly.

Why You Should Drink Fluids When You’re Sick

Fluid loss is caused by different symptoms of the common cold and flu. If you are running a fever at all, Dass says that can draw water and electrolytes out of your body as sweat. “Also, you may be breathing faster, which leads to more moisture release,” she says. If you are vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, water loss is even greater and occurs at a faster rate. Put any or all of these things together, and that could add up to a substantial hydration deficit, Dass says.

According to Dr. Dass, the idea of resuscitating yourself with fluids dates back to the cholera epidemic in the 1830s. “Drinking things like water, juice, or electrolyte-containing fluids will help you replace the fluids and electrolytes you’ve lost while also loosening mucus — if you have a cold — and helping to relieve congestion,” she says. But all beverages aren’t created equally. Steer clear of sugary options, Dass warns, and “best to avoid drinks that act as diuretics because these will dehydrate you.” “Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda pop and alcohol are leading culprits.”

But don’t discount the power of a decaf or warm beverage that’s low in caffeine. “Hot liquids may feel more soothing on the throat than cold liquids,” Dass says. “The bonus is that the steam from the hot liquids may help relieve some congestion, too.” Try brewing a hot cup of green or chamomile tea, or, if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, brew up a Theraflu PowerPod, which houses powerful medicine to give you cold and flu symptom relief.

Of course, the rules are different when talking about chronic illnesses or children with gastrointestinal illness, in which cases it’s best to consult with a personal doctor or medical professional.

So the next time someone tells you to “drink lots of fluids” when you’re sick, now you know why. It’s all about restoring your moisture levels and flushing all the bad stuff out of your system.