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“Drink Fluids!”

Hidden Hills

January 9, 2024

I have a cold. I've had it for five days. Fever, body ache, nasal congestion, productive cough (sometimes). I have probably had over 50 colds in my life. Yet each time, at least in the digital age, I search Google for what I should do. And each time I am reminded to drink lots of fluids.

Given the lessons of my childhood, I comply. I have had 15 bottles of orange Gatorade Zero over the past five days. Breaking from my blind compliance, today I Googled why I am supposed to drink lots of fluids when I have a cold. I'll admit that my intuitive answer was that the fluids reduce the viscosity of the mucus which helps me discharge more. Wrong. I found several answers with the following being the best summary:

It's common to lose more fluids than normal when you're sick, says Shah—from vomiting, diarrhea, or (if you have a fever) sweating, for example. "On top of that, your metabolism may be sped up and your body's at an increased level of activity," she says. "You may require additional hydration to keep your fluid levels balanced."

Not getting enough fluids can affect the body's ability to fight infection, she says, and people who are ill may not notice subtle signs of dehydration including dry lips, dry skin, headaches, fatigue, and decreased urination. They may also not feel up to eating or drinking as much as they normally do.

However, she adds, the concept of "flushing out an illness" isn't accurate. "It's more to rebalance your electrolytes and blood volume, rather than to directly affect the infection or treat the problem itself," she says. "Using that language gives people the wrong idea of what hydration is doing for them."

So while hydration may not make mucus and phlegm more "fluidity," I'm probably going to keep thinking that it does. Mind over matter -- or specifically, mind over mucus.

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