Hydration Tips for Flu and Cold Season

Effective Strategies To Improve Hydration During Flu and Cold Season

The flu or even a persistent cold can soon leave your body dehydrated. If you have accompanying vomiting or diarrhea symptoms, the risk is even greater. It is essential to drink enough fluids whenever you feel a cold coming on. As an additional hydration benefit, liquids also can help to thin mucus and make it easier to expel.

Inside your nose and throat you have a forest of tiny hair-like projections called cilia.   The job of these hairs is to prevent viruses from entering your body by constantly waving back and forth.  Cilia work best when they are moist.

Consuming ample fluids is the only way to assure adequate hydration for your whole respiratory system.

How Much Fluid Is “Enough” for Optimal Hydration?

Generally it is wise to drink as much of liquid beverages as you can. For most individuals eight 8-ounce glasses daily will be adequate, but more may be even better.  This amount will generally keep mucus membranes moist and help relieve dry eyes and other common flu symptoms. Plain water is fine; so are fruit juices, herbal teas, popsicles and electrolyte beverages. You may want to stay away from caffeinated drinks, though, because caffeine works as a mild diuretic.

Yvonne Maldonado, M.D., professor of Infectious Diseases at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, offers the following advice: “To individualize the fluid intake recommendation more precisely, just take your body weight (in pounds) and divide by 2.  The resulting number,” she says, “will tell you how many ounces of water you need daily.  For example, if you weigh 128 pounds, your target will be 64 ounces (approximately 8 glasses) each day.”

If you feel nauseated, try limiting yourself to small sips of liquids. Big gulps that are swallowed too fast can precipitate an increased feeling of queasiness or even trigger actual vomiting.

Why Are Hot Beverages Especially Effective at Improving Hydration?

Another way to to keep your system hydrated is by drinking warm liquids, especially herbal teas and soup broth.  This intake thins mucus secretions, relieves nasal congestion and prevents dehydration — all at the same time. Hot liquids can also soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat.

  • Herbal tea with honey is especially soothing for a sore throat.
  • Black and green teas also contain catechin, a phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea effects.
  • Ginger tea helps block the production of substances that may cause bronchial congestion and stuffiness. In addition it contains compounds call gingerols, which are natural cough suppressants.
  • A tea brewed from the combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger, when drunk hot and often, can be effective for combating a cold or flu. Such a beverage can cause you to sweat and thereby hasten eradication of the virus from your system.

Harvard researchers found that drinking black tea improved immunity in as little as two weeks. Cranberries contain unique antiviral properties that may further help to ward off the risk of colds. The vitamin C in lemon juice provides an added boost of another powerful antioxidant. The following brew, containing all three ingredients, can be a pleasant way to help keep colds at bay:

— cold-fighter tea —

6 oz. water
1 tea bag of black tea
3 oz. cranberry juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
sugar or sugar substitute, to taste

In small saucepan bring water to boil. Remove pan from heat; add tea bag, juices, cinnamon and sugar (or other sweetener) to taste. Steep for three to five minutes; then discard tea bag and enjoy sipping the hot benerage.

What About Drinking Alcoholic Beverages When You Have a Cold or the Flu?

How about drinking alcohol? Probably not a good idea. According to William Schaffner, M.D., chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN: “When you have the flu, the last thing you want to do is drink alcohol. It makes you sleepy, and flu does that already.” Alcohol can also reduce the body’s ability to fight off infections for up to 24 hours.

One possible exception to the No-Alcohol Rule: if you’re so congested that you cannot sleep at night, you might want to try a hot toddy. Here is the recipe for that age-old remedy:

   — hot toddy —                                                               

   1.) Make a cup of hot herbal tea.

   2.) Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about one ounce) of whiskey or bourbon.

Limit yourself to one single drink though. Too much alcohol will inflame the membranes and can make you feel even worse.

How Do You Know When You Are Consuming Enough Fluids To Meet Your Hydration Needs?

How can you be sure you’re getting enough fluid? One good indicator: the color of your urine should appear pale yellow. It ought to look something like the color of lemonade.