If you’ve seen the movie Contagion, you know how fast viruses can spread. The splattering of germs from just one sick person’s cough or sneeze - even from as far as 12 feet away – is all it takes. If those germs ultimately make contact with the lining of your nose, mouth or eyes, you can catch their miserable disease. This can occur directly, as germs travel through the air, or indirectly by unknowingly touching germs that have landed, and then touching your exposed hand to your eyes, nose or mouth. The potential for contact is unlimited – which is why the disease spreads so freely.
Hydration works in many ways to keep you feeling good. If you start drinking plenty of water now, it can help increase your odds of staying healthy this cold and flu season.
Hydration Helps Prevent Cold and Flu
To wage your defense this flu season, start by making sure to frequently wash your hands with warm soapy water. A yearly flu shot will also reduce your chances of catching a seasonal influenza.
But the importance of drinking plenty of water and fluids should not be overlooked. Three reasons why good hydration helps prevent a cold or flu include:
- Improves Overall Health – Drinking plenty of fluids helps to keep your immune system strong and ready to fight the insidious germ invaders.
- Flushes Out Toxins – Drinking hot water will elevate your body temperature, causing your body to sweat. Sweat helps keep you healthy, by flushing out toxins and purifying the bloodstream.
- Blocks Germs – Drinking sufficient water can help your nasal membranes to stay moist – trapping germs and keeping viruses from marching into your body.
Hydration Helps Relieve Cold and Flu Symptoms
If you’re doing all the right things to defend against the cold and flu, you should increase your odds of staying healthy. But if you start to feel those miserable cold symptoms creeping up, or get slammed head-on by the flu, drinking plenty of fluids will help to relieve those awful stuffy, achy symptoms.
Consuming lots of fluids – particularly hot water – has the following benefits when sick:
- Soothes Sore Throats – The fever and congestion that accompany the flu can lead to a scratchy throat. Drinking hot water can help to sooth your throat and also help with painful swallowing.
- Breaks up Congestion – Drinking hot water helps to cleanse your nasal cavities, bringing relief when you’re congested. The hot water vapor works to loosen the mucus buildup in your nasal cavities, helping to clear your nasal passages. Also, because the hot water makes you sweat out toxins, it promotes a quicker recovery if congested due to illness.
- Helps Reduce Fever – Fever is an expected symptom of influenza. Your elevated temperature helps mobilize immune-system defenses, and makes it harder for viruses and other microorganisms to reproduce. (Journal of Virology, February 1982). But fever also causes sweating and chills, which can make you very uncomfortable. Taking aspirin or acetaminophen and drinking plenty of fluids is the conventional wisdom to help fight fever. Consuming hot water or lots of hot chicken soup is also believed to help you “sweat out” the fever.
- Increases Energy – Water is a main source of energy to the body, helping to increase the circulation of oxygen to the brain. Drinking plenty of fluids will help to reduce fatigue and help you physically function better.
- Improves Emotional Responses and Thoughts – When you’re feeling achy and congested, it can be very difficult to sit up and think straight. Drinking warm or hot water can help to naturally purify your mind and body. This can lead to a more balanced and relaxed mental state, allowing you to think more clearly and start feeling better.
The Dangers of Dehydration
Dehydration can drastically complicate your illness and requires medical attention. As your feverish body sweats, you may lose more water than you realize. If you’re experiencing nausea and vomiting, the water loss becomes much greater. Also, water may not sound good to you as you’re lying miserably in bed. And the thought of swallowing can be painful.
With dehydration, you may experience dizziness and rapid heart rate. In the most serious cases, dehydration can cause delirium or unconsciousness – and worse.
As you lose fluid, you’re actually losing both water and salts that need to be replaced. If you’re not eating much, then try hydrating with fluids that contain salts and sugars, such as sports drinks. Also, avoid caffeinated drinks, as these can worsen dehydration when sedentary. Drink often, and sip small amounts at a time. If you’re too weak to drink from a cup, try using a squeezable water bottle or straw; or suck on ice chips. If you’re unsure if you’re drinking enough, try this simple urine test to test for dehydration.
Consider these other uses of water to get better fast.
- Flow warm saline water through your nasal passages. Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose. An inexpensive “neti pot” from your local drug store makes this process very easy. If you’ve never tried a neti pot before, you’re missing out!
- Inhale steam to ease your congestion and drippy nose. Use steam from a hot shower or humidifier. You can even use steam from boiling water over a hot stove. Just be careful.
- Take a steamy shower. Not only will the hot steam help your nasal passages, but the moisture will help to relax you, and the head to toe cleaning will make you feel more fresh and alive.
- Gargle with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per glass of water) to help relieve the pain of a sore throat.
And remember to wash hands frequently in warm, soapy water. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. This is supposed to be very effective at killing cold and flu germs, while use of sanitizer wipes is not!
Has drinking lots of water made a difference in keeping you healthy during cold and flu season? Let us know your comments.
Source of Information
- CDC.Gov, “Water: Meeting Your Daily Fluid Needs”
- CDC.Gov, “Seasonal Influenza (Flu)”
- WebMD.com, “Flu or Cold Symptoms?”
- WebMD.com, “Home Remedies for Colds”
- MayoClinic.com: Dehydration
- North Dakota Department of Health, “Pandemic Influenza”
- Journal of Virology, February 1982
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