The sports drink Gatorade is a non-carbonated solution formulated to replenish sugar, electrolytes and fluid lost during strenuous physical activity. Although the mechanism is different, fluid and electrolyte losses also commonly occur when you're sick and may contribute to feeling poorly. If you are otherwise healthy, Gatorade is one of several options for rehydration, electrolyte replacement and short-term energy when you're sick.
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Diarrhea and Vomiting
The digestive fluids of your stomach and intestines contain high concentrations of electrolytes, specifically sodium, potassium and chloride. A stomach virus with vomiting, diarrhea or both can cause you to lose a large volume of fluid and electrolytes within a short period. These losses can lead to dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities, which may become serious if left untreated. In a September 2006 article in the "Journal of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition," Dr. Satish Rao and colleagues report that Gatorade is safe and effective for the correction of dehydration and relief of symptoms associated with viral gastroenteritis, or "stomach flu." The authors note that study participants preferred the taste of Gatorade to an electrolyte beverage and an oral rehydration solution.
How It Works
Beverages used for fluid replacement when you're sick should approximate the composition of what has been lost. Because Gatorade is a mixture of water, electrolytes and sugar, it is a good fluid replacement option and provides you with needed calories when you are not eating well. The manufacturer of Gatorade reports that it is rapidly absorbed from your digestive tract because the concentration of dissolved particles is similar to that of the liquid part of your blood.
When you have a fever, you lose an extra 100 to 150 mL of body water daily for every degree your temperature is above normal. A low-grade fever from a cold, sore throat or other minor respiratory illness is unlikely to cause dehydration if you are able to eat and drink normally. If you are not eating or have vomiting and diarrhea with a fever, however, your risk of dehydration increases. Gatorade, water or another caffeine-free beverage can help to replace fluid loss associated with a fever. Avoid caffeine when you are sick because it acts as a mild diuretic, causing increased water loss through your kidneys. Whatever beverage you choose, drink it chilled to help cool your body.
When to Seek Medical Help
Call your doctor if vomiting or diarrhea persists for more than two days; you get dizzy or confused; your urine turns dark and becomes infrequent; you have a high fever; you notice blood in your stool or vomit; or you have other symptoms that concern you.
Warning for Infants and Young Children
Gatorade is not recommended for infants and young children. Your doctor may advise you to give your child a pediatric electrolyte solution to prevent dehydration during episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. Talk with your doctor about what to do if your child has vomiting or diarrhea.
- "J. of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition"; Oral Rehydration...; S. Rao, M.D., Ph.D., et al.; 2006
- MayoClinic.com; Gastroenteritis: First Aid; Mayo Clinic Staff; January 2010
- Gatorade.com: Frequently Asked Questions, Science and Nutrition
- MedCalc.com; Hyponatremia & Hypernatremia; January 2010
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Diarrhea
- Virginia Pediatric Group: Frequently Asked Questions