Should You Drink Alcohol With a Cold?

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Coughing, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, headache and sore throat are all symptoms of the common cold. According to PubMed Health, approximately 1 billion colds strike Americans every year. If you are one of them, sit tight. A cold can linger for up to 14 days and for several of those days you may also have a fever. If you manage to drag yourself out of bed and hit the party scene while you have a cold, think twice about soothing your woes with alcohol.

Immune System

Alcohol consumption has a negative, short-term effect on the immune system, which increases your likelihood of infection from one of over 200 viruses that cause the common cold, according to Truman State University. Drinking alcohol while you have a cold further compromises your immune system, making it difficult for your body to fight-off the cold virus. This may result in prolonged illness or the possibility of the cold manifesting into a more serious condition.

Cold Medications

The uncomfortable symptoms associated with the common cold often lead sufferers to reach for over-the-counter medications to help relieve their misery. If you are one of them, read the labels. The University of Texas at Austin explains that alcohol does have a place in certain cold medicines -- but in controlled amounts. Oral, liquid medications contain minute amounts of alcohol that serve as solvents for analgesics and antihistamines within the medication’s formulation.

A Dangerous Mix

Ingesting alcohol while taking OTC cold remedies has dangerous consequences. Cold medications that contain alcohol, antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and dextromethorphan cough suppressants already have a sedating effect. Couple this with the ingestion of additional amounts of alcohol and sedation intensifies. The University of Southern California reports that combining alcohol and cold medications that contain acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen has toxic effects on the liver and may also irritate the lining of the stomach.

What You Should Drink

Keeping yourself well hydrated while your body fights off the common cold is essential to your recovery. Alcohol causes dehydration, so does caffeine. Princeton University Health Services explains that when you have a cold, it is best to drink plenty of clear fluids. Drinking 8 oz. of clear fluid every 2 hours keeps the lining of your nasal passages and throat hydrated, relieving congestion and soothing sore throat. If you have a fever, more than 8 oz. of clear fluid may be necessary to replace what your body loses through perspiration when your body’s temperature is on the rise.

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