Things to Eat When You Have a Virus

A virus, or viral infection, is a type of communicable disease. Some examples of viral diseases include the common cold, influenza and HIV. Eating certain foods may help reduce virus symptoms and prevent complications of viruses, although specific nutrition recommendations vary depending on the type of virus you have. Food will not cure a virus, but maintaining good nutrition while you're sick may help you recover faster.

Upper Respiratory Tract Virus Nutrition

Pot of home made chicken noodle soup (Image: matthewennisphotography/iStock/Getty Images)

A cold virus may cause a sore throat, sinus or chest congestion, fever, runny nose, cough, or all the above. Consuming certain foods and liquids during a cold may help reduce symptoms and promote recovery. For upper respiratory tract infections, it is essential to drink plenty of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids such as water, juice and broth to avoid dehydration that can result from fever and increased mucus production. Chicken soup or tea relieve a sore throat, speed up mucus movement and help relieve congestion, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Foods for Flus

Bowl of steamed white rice with chopsticks (Image: StockSolutions/iStock/Getty Images)

An influenza, or flu, virus may cause cough and fever, but symptoms are typically more sudden and severe than those of a cold. The best foods for a flu virus are generous amounts of liquids like water, juice and soup. Viral gastroenteritis, while commonly called "stomach flu," frequently causes vomiting and diarrhea, which drinking or eating exacerbates. For stomach flu, it is best to stick to clear liquids taken in small but frequent amounts. Once nausea from a stomach flu virus subsides, McKinley Health Center recommends eating easy-to-digest foods, such as rice, apples, bananas, broth, gelatin and toast.

Nutrition and Other Types of Viruses

Gardener holding a box of fresh vegetables (Image: gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images)

Appropriate nutrition is also important for short-lived viruses, such as mononucleosis, a virus characterized by body aches, sore throat and fever, and chronic diseases caused by viruses, such as HIV/AIDS or herpes. According to TeensHealth, remain hydrated with mononucleosis and eat a well-balanced diet with foods like fruit smoothies, which provide nutrition while also soothing the throat. If you have herpes, a viral disease that causes re-occurring outbreaks of lesions on the face or genitals, eat foods high in the amino acid lysine, like chicken, fish, vegetables, beans and eggs, which may help suppress outbreaks, according to Michele Picozzi, author of the book, "Controlling Herpes Naturally." For the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, a high-quality diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein is crucial to bolster the immune system and avoid wasting.


Man sleeping in bed (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Although eating certain foods may help reduce virus symptoms and duration in some cases, if you cannot eat, drink or have other serious symptoms such as seizures, disorientation or bloody diarrhea, you may require hospitalization to have fluids or nutrition administered intravenously. High-risk populations including the elderly, young children and people with chronic health problems may require hospitalization for serious viral diseases, such as West Nile virus. Common viruses, such as a cold or flu, will eventually run their course without medical treatment. Besides good nutrition, get plenty of sleep when you have a cold or flu virus to help your immune system fight the infection.

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