Should You Drink Alcohol With a Cold?

Avoid alcohol if you have a cold.
Image Credit: Sirinapa Wannapat / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

The next time you swing into the drug store to pick up cough drops and cold medicine, you might want to think twice before you cruise down the alcohol aisle. Drinking with a cold is not in your best interest, especially if your goal is to stay hydrated and boost your immune system.

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Tip

If you have a cold, it's a good idea to skip the alcohol and opt for water instead.

Drinking With a Cold

If you're not sick yet, don't worry, there's a good chance you'll end up with the sniffles at least two or three times this year. That's because the average adult can expect to have two to three colds annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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The good news is, most people will be free of symptoms within seven to ten days. The not so good news? You may have to make some adjustments to your drinking habits while your body works on overdrive to get you well again.

With that in mind, your first order of business is to avoid alcohol while sick. Ditching your favorite cocktail for a glass of water can have a positive impact on your immune system. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that drinking too much can weaken your immune system. They also point out that drinking a lot on a single occasion can make you susceptible to infections since it slows your body's ability to fight them off.

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Read more: 8 Foods That Boost Your Immune System

Alcohol and Cold Medicine

In addition to weakening your immune system, you also run the risk of experiencing adverse side effects if you combine alcohol with certain cold remedies. If you're taking an over-the-counter medicine or prescription medication to help with congestion, coughing, fever or a sore throat, mixing it with alcohol may be a bad idea.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that one of the consequences of drinking alcohol is that it can make you feel sleepy, drowsy, dizzy or lightheaded, which are all common side effects of many cold and allergy medicines. Some common ones to look out for include, OTC remedies such as Benadryl, Tylenol Cold and Flu, Dimetapp Cold and Allergy, Triaminic Cold and Allergy, Claritin and many more.

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When you combine alcohol with these medications, the side effects of the OTC drugs can intensify, causing you to feel even more drowsy, sleepy or dizzy. Additionally, certain medicines such as cough syrup may contain up to 10 percent alcohol, which can make for a dangerous combination if you're drinking alcohol while sick. That's why you should always read the label of any medication and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Read more: 5 Uncommon Ways to Fend Off Cold and Flu

Staying Hydrated While Sick

But it's not just your immune system and the possibility of a harmful interaction with certain cold and allergy medicines that you need to be aware of when drinking alcohol while sick. Alcohol can also interfere with the hydration levels in your body. When you're sick with a cold, the American Lung Association says to avoid caffeine-containing products and alcohol since they can lead to dehydration. And yes, your body does need extra fluids to recover, but not in the form of a 16-ounce beer or glass of wine.

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So, if drinking with a cold is out, what should you sip on when you're sick? Well, if your cold comes with other symptoms, the CDC says your body needs more water, especially if you have a fever, which can happen when you're battling a cold.

Staying hydrated with the right fluids is critical when you're trying to rid your body of a virus. In addition to drinking water throughout the day, consider snacking on fruit with a high water content such as watermelon, peaches, apples, pineapple, oranges and berries.

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