Is It Beneficial To Consume More Fluids During A Cold?

The golden advice of consuming fluids to get rid of a cold doesn’t actually have a scientific base. Instead, it can prove to be harmful in extreme cases.

We all know the familiar feeling of a blocked nose, tightening throat, hoarse voice, the typical ache in our head and difficulty swallowing…. the dreaded cold! This is a condition not deemed important enough to have a vaccine devised for it, but significant enough to interrupt our daily lives in a number of annoying ways. Anyone who has ever received any advice from concerned family and friends will know, the first thing they advise is to drink plenty of fluids.

The consumption is suggested in a number of forms, including ginger tea, green tea, warm water, warm water with lemon, milk and turmeric, etc. While each may have additional ingredients that impart their own benefits, the basic principle remains the same – drink plenty of fluids. However, is it actually beneficial?

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Benefits of Drinking Fluids

The first and foremost benefit is hydration. Having enough water is imperative for the smooth functioning of our body at any time. However, at a time when our body is already weak and fighting an infection, the last thing we need is to deprive it of water.

Keeping the body hydrated is essential, even before catching an infection. The mucous lining our nostrils is moist, which acts as a sticky trap for infectious agents. If our body isn’t hydrated, this mucus dries up, reducing its efficiency by almost half. During a fever, the heat tends to dry out our cells, so the regular intake of fluids is absolutely essential.

However, the above-mentioned points are applicable even in normal circumstances, such as sweating, etc. In the past 4-5 decades, there has been no scientific proof to show that the consumption of extra fluids is beneficial during a cold, at least in terms of reducing its severity or duration.

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Water helps prevent dehydration. (Photo Credit :

The Disadvantage of Drinking Fluids

Water is considered one of the safest things to consume. Even if there is no proof that excessive fluid consumption is not beneficial, what could be the harm in doing so, right? Wrong!

Water, like anything else, can also be harmful in excess. Some doctors believe that an excess of water or fluid consumption puts unnecessary pressure on our kidneys. Again, that is not what our already weakened body would need.

During infections of the lower respiratory tract, studies have also shown that there is an increase in the secretion of the antidiuretic hormone. This hormone is responsible for water reabsorption from our kidneys. Thus, an increase in its secretion would imply increased water absorption.

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This is a condition in which sodium levels in our body decrease, which leads to symptoms of nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, etc. However, in extreme cases, it can lead to more fatal consequences, including coma, death, cerebral edema, etc.

This condition is caused by the body’s inability to remove the water, or due to an excess intake of water.

Although not very common, the consumption of excess fluids can lead to this, especially when there is an infection of the lower respiratory tract. Hence, care should be taken in moderating your fluid intake.

The adage of drinking lots of fluids during a cold cannot be given as blanket advice to anyone and everyone. While it is essential to avoid becoming dehydrated, excess fluids should not be consumed. The kidneys have a feedback mechanism that makes us feel thirsty when water levels have dropped. Paying heed to these signals from our body is the best way to maintain balance and ensure a speedy recovery when you fall ill.


  2. The New York Times
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
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About the Author:

Mahak Jalan has a BSc degree in Zoology from Mumbai University in India. She loves animals, books and biology. She has a general assumption that everyone shares her enthusiasm about the human body! An introvert by nature, she finds solace in music and writing.

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