Is drinking Gatorade when sick a good idea? 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 occur when you're sick and may contribute to feeling poorly. If you are otherwise healthy, drinks with electrolytes when sick, including Gatorade, can aid rehydration, electrolyte replacement and short-term energy.
Drinking Gatorade when you're sick can help replace lost fluids and prevent you from becoming dehydrated, but it's also high in sugar.
Drinking Gatorade for Stomach Viruses
The digestive fluids of your stomach and intestines contain high concentrations of electrolytes, specifically sodium, potassium and chloride. If you are suffering from a stomach virus with vomiting, diarrhea or both, you might lose a large volume of fluid and electrolytes within a short period.
According to Brown University Health Services, you lose sodium, potassium, and glucose when you vomit — and it's important to replace those. The site says to avoid any caffeinated beverages or anything acidic, such as orange juice, to prevent further stomach irritation. Instead, take small drinks of water until you feel better; then look for drinks with electrolytes when sick. Gatorade contains sodium, potassium and chloride, so drinking Gatorade when sick can replace the electrolytes you lost due to vomiting or diarrhea.
Read more: The Best Drinks When You Are Feeling Sick
Drinking Gatorade for a Fever
Make sure you seek out drinks with electrolytes when sick, including Gatorade for a fever. 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. But according to the Mayo Clinic, a fever can contribute to dehydration. And the higher your fever, the more dehydrated you can get. The risk of dehydration grows even greater if you are vomiting or have diarrhea in addition to a fever. Drinking Gatorade for fever, can help replace to replace fluid loss.
If you have a serious fever that won't go away using over-the-counter medication, it's best to seek treatment from a medical professional rather than treating yourself at home.
Read more: The Best Foods To Eat When You Have A Fever
Can Gatorade Help Sick Kids?
According to Harvard Health Publishing, fluids that contain a lot of sugar — like Gatorade — can actually make diarrhea worse in children and infants. As such, the site recommends giving moderately sick kids a drink of diluted apple juice to replace lost fluids, instead of Gatorade. However, for severe dehydration, or in the case of sick infants, further care and oral rehydration electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte may be warranted.
As for whether Gatorade is safe for kids in general, experts say that there is nothing dangerous about the drink, but that plain water is just fine for rehydrating kids after activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that kids rarely need to drink sports drinks like Gatorade. "For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best," said Holly J. Benjamin, MD, FAAP, a member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. "Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don't need, and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay."
- Brown University Health Services: "Viral Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dehydration"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "When Treating Stomach Bugs, the Best Solution May Be the Simplest One"
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): "Kids Should Not Consume Energy Drinks, and Rarely Need Sports Drinks, Says AAP"
- "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