When you're sick, you hear it over and over: "Get plenty of fluids.” And it’s true. Your body needs extra hydration when you’re trying to get well.
But what, exactly, should you put in your cup? Some drinks are great for easing symptoms, and others may make them worse. Keep these tips in mind when you’re picking what to sip.
Drinks That Help
- Decaf tea. The heat can soothe sore throats, stuffy noses, chest congestion, and upset stomachs. Plus, a warm cup of tea is comforting when you’re feeling rough. If you choose one with herbs like ginger, your immune system may get a small boost, too. For an extra benefit, try adding a small dollop of honey to your cup: It can calm a cough and help you sleep.
- Water with lemon. Hot or cold, it keeps you hydrated and loosens up stuffiness and congestion. Lemon is also high in vitamin C, which may make a cold slightly shorter if you get it regularly.
- Soup. Clear soups and broths give you calories when you may not have much of an appetite. Some research shows they may help relieve inflammation in the body, which can relieve some of your symptoms. The warmth also helps break up mucus.
- Ice chips or ice pops. True, these aren’t technically a beverage, but they have the same purpose: keeping you hydrated.
What You Don’t Need
These drinks won’t help you get over your cold or flu, and some could do more harm than good.
- Sports drinks. They can help if you’re very dehydrated, but they don't really do much to make you feel better. Plus, they have a lot of sugar. Other drinks will help you hydrate without the extra sweet stuff.
- Fruit juices. Juice may seem like a good idea, especially for kids, but like sports drinks, most have loads of added sugar. Citrus-based ones like orange juice can also aggravate sore throats. If it's all your child wants to drink, try adding a splash or two to a cup of water instead of a glassful of juice.
- Coffee. If you’re going to sip a hot drink, might as well get your daily dose of caffeine in it, right? Wrong. Try to stick with water and nutrient-rich soups.
- Ginger ale. While ginger in its natural form may have some cold and flu benefits, this carbonated, sugary version won't offer much relief. Soft drinks of any kind have very little of the nutrients and electrolytes you need to fight off sickness. Get your ginger in a mug of hot tea instead.
- Alcohol. It dehydrates you and can make some symptoms worse, like nausea, headaches, and body aches. Booze can also make your body less able to handle infections. So save that hot toddy for when you’re feeling better.
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Harvard Health: “Can everyday spices make you healthier?” “What you eat can fuel or cool inflammation, a key driver of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.”
CDC: “The flu: Caring for Someone Sick at Home.”
Mayo Clinic: “Can chicken soup cure a cold?” “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt,” “Honey: An effective cough remedy?”
HealthyChildren.org: “Fruit Juice and Your Child’s Diet.”
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body,” “Influence of Alcohol and Gender on Immune Response.”
Chest: “Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro.”
National Institutes of Health: “5 Tips: Natural Products for the Flu and Colds: What Does the Science Say?”