Whether you’re suffering from a viral or bacterial infection, not getting enough fluids can quickly turn a standard cold into something more serious. Vomiting and diarrhea — two symptoms of the cold and flu — can make it more difficult for your body to retain the water content it needs to function properly.
When your body doesn’t get the proper amount of fluids, you may develop a condition known as dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, tiredness, dry mouth, muscle cramps, and fever. When left untreated, this condition can become life-threatening.
Knowing what to drink when you’re sick can help you avoid dehydration when you have a cold or the flu. While water is a popular choice, there are better options. Here’s what to drink when sick to avoid dehydration.
What To Drink When Sick: Water vs. ORS
While many people reach for water, it’s not the best choice because water doesn't have the right amount of electrolytes and sugar to accelerate fluid absorption. In contrast, an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS contains a precise ratio of sodium and glucose to prevent dehydration.
Here are some of the best beverages to reach for when you’re feeling under the weather.
Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS)
Since 2003, the WHO has recommended the use of ORS for the treatment of acute diarrheal diseases and the resulting dehydration. The WHO created a standard formula, but the high sodium levels provided poor taste, limiting their use. DripDrop’s patented ORS addressed the taste issue, creating an ORS that not only works, but tastes good so users will be encouraged to drink it regularly enough to prevent dehydration.
DripDrop ORS contains a precise ratio of electrolytes and sugar plus potassium, magnesium, and zinc to help you feel better fast. Research shows that zinc and other micronutrients, like potassium and iron, may play a role in supporting immune health and fending off infections.
Beyond these benefits, you can personalize your drinking experience. ORS comes in a variety of flavors like berry, orange, and honey lemon ginger. You can even choose a multi-flavor pouch to try different flavors.
Close to 60% of the human body is made up of water. It’s a key building block of cells and plays an important role in overall health. Water can help when you’re sick, but it’s not as effective at preventing dehydration as ORS drinks because it doesn’t contain the same ratio of sodium and glucose that accelerates fluid absorption.
Other Beverage Options
Once you ensure your body is getting the electrolytes it needs with an ORS, there are other drinks you can consume to ease cold symptoms. These drinks may help soothe a sore throat and support immune function.
Hot liquids — like DripDrop ORS spiced apple cider and honey lemon ginger — can help soothe a sore throat. Drinking warm beverages can help you warm up if your cold comes with symptoms like the chills. When it comes to drinking hot tea, you can choose just about any flavor. Though some research shows that specific types of tea are particularly effective when you’re sick.
One example is green tea, a tea that is packed with antioxidants, including flavonoids and catechins. A review published in Food & Function found that EGCG in green tea helped to activate T-cells and cytokines, which play a key role in immune system function and fighting off disease.
Another good tea to drink when sick is fresh ginger tea. Ginger contains antioxidants that offer anti-inflammatory effects, which may help reduce the swelling that causes a sore throat. Add a slice of lemon, which contains vitamin C. Studies show vitamin C may help reduce the severity and duration of colds.
A study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism found that men who drank tomato juice or carrot juice demonstrated increased immune function. They attributed these benefits to carotenoids — plant pigments that are responsible for the bright color of these veggies and offer additional health benefits.
Another great choice is orange juice. Orange juice is chock-full of vitamins, including potassium and vitamin C. A single serving of orange juice contains 138% of your daily recommended vitamin C amount. While people once thought vitamin C could prevent colds, recent research shows that's likely not true. Instead, research shows that vitamin C may be more effective in reducing the severity of cold symptoms rather than preventing them entirely.
The downside of juices is that they can contain a lot of sugar and calories. They’re a decent choice to help you maintain fluid balance, but don’t rely on them as the only solution when you’re sick.
Smoothies are another great way to get nutrients and vitamins while replenishing valuable fluid stores. Use nutrient-rich foods like berries, nuts, and seeds in your smoothies or add spinach, beets, and avocados. The nutrients from these foods may help support the immune system.
Smoothies can also help ease a sore throat by providing a cooling effect. The cold temperatures can help decrease the swelling and inflammation that cause irritation.
Foods That Can Help Recovery
Eating the right foods can also help you stay healthy and boost your immune response. In addition to the best drinks to sip when you have a cold, here are some foods to try.
Chicken soup or vegetable soup, can replenish electrolytes like sodium that your body needs to avoid dehydration. If your symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, eating BRAT foods can help you get nutrients without irritating your stomach. The BRAT diet stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods offer nutrition but are gentle on the digestive system so they won’t cause further irritation like dairy and other foods can.
Healthy eating is an important component of overall health. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink lots of fluids to support your immune system.
Stay Healthy and Prevent Dehydration
Whether you have a sore throat, chest congestion, or a cough, drinking the right fluids can support recovery. The best approach to limiting the risk of dehydration when you’re sick is prevention. Take the following steps to avoid getting sick.
Wash your hands regularly, especially after touching high-contact surfaces like doorknobs. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of rest, and stay home when you’re sick to avoid spreading the illness. The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine each year to reduce the risk of influenza.
Our parent’s toolkit offers strategies you can use to prevent dehydration when your kids get sick. If you’re preparing for cold and flu season, and want to try out an ORS for the first time, sign up for our convenient, low-risk trial. Once you decide ORS is a key part of your cold and flu protocol, join our Subscribe & Save subscription program for convenience, flexibility, and value.