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How to Stay Hydrated When Sick: Hydration 101

How to Stay Hydrated When Sick: Hydration 101

Staying hydrated is a cornerstone of good health, vital for maintaining the balance of bodily fluids that influence functions such as digestion, absorption, circulation, and temperature regulation. When you're sick, your body's need for hydration becomes even more critical. Illness can disrupt your body's natural balance, leading to increased fluid loss through fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Understanding how to stay hydrated when sick is essential, not just for comfort but for recovery and preventing the condition from worsening.

Why Hydration Matters When Sick

Fighting Illness with Fluids

Your body relies on fluids to transport nutrients to cells and to flush out toxins and pathogens. When you're sick, staying hydrated helps maintain this crucial transport system. Fluids play a key role in supporting your immune system's function and in facilitating the recovery process.

Risks of Dehydration During Illness

Illnesses that cause fever, vomiting, or diarrhea can rapidly deplete your body's fluids, leading to dehydration. This loss of fluids can exacerbate symptoms like fatigue and dizziness, making it harder for your body to cope with the illness and prolonging the recovery period.

The Consequences of Dehydration

Dehydration when sick can lead to severe complications, such as reduced kidney function, various infections, and in severe cases, shock. It’s crucial to recognize the early signs of dehydration to manage them effectively before they progress.


Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Recognizing Dehydration

Common dehydration symptoms include persistent thirst, dark yellow urine, dry skin, fatigue, and dizziness. When you are sick, these signs might be accompanied by decreased urine output, extreme weakness, or a dry, sticky mouth, signs that require increased hydration efforts.

Staying Hydrated When Sick: Top Tips

Prioritize Water

Water is the most effective hydrant as it is readily absorbed and immediately benefits the body's cells. It’s essential to keep a bottle of water nearby and take small, frequent sips throughout the day, even if you do not feel thirsty.

Enhancing Water Intake

To make water intake more appealing, you can add natural flavor enhancers like slices of lemon, cucumber, or ginger. These additions not only improve the taste but also provide additional benefits like vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties.

Alternative Hydration Options

Consider clear broths, which offer soothing warmth and necessary salts. Diluted fruit juices can help restore electrolytes, and popsicles made from these juices or herbal teas provide a cooling effect while also hydrating.

Electrolyte Balance

During illness, especially with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, replenishing electrolytes is crucial. While sports drinks can offer a quick fix, they often contain high levels of sugar; hence, it's advisable to opt for low-sugar versions or naturally electrolyte-rich coconut water.

Hydrating Foods

Incorporate hydrating foods into your diet, such as watermelon, strawberries, lettuce, and cucumber, which are over 90% water and can help boost your overall fluid intake.

Monitoring Hydration

Keep an eye on the color of your urine as a general indicator of your hydration status; pale yellow indicates good hydration, while darker shades may suggest a need to increase fluid intake.

Additional Tips for Different Conditions

Sore Throat

For a sore throat, soothing teas like chamomile or drinks at a comfortable temperature can be beneficial. Popsicles or cold smoothies can also provide relief.


For those suffering from nausea, ginger tea can be beneficial. Avoid overly sweet or carbonated drinks as they can worsen symptoms. Small, frequent sips of fluids are recommended.

When to See a Doctor

It's crucial to seek medical attention if symptoms of severe dehydration occur, such as dizziness, confusion, or rapid heart rate, or if you're unable to keep fluids down due to persistent vomiting, which can prevent rehydration.


How to Hydrate Fast When Sick

Practical Hydration Tips

When you’re under the weather, keeping a large tumbler within reach can help you stay hydrated without much effort. It's advisable to take small, frequent sips, especially if nausea is present. Setting reminders on your phone can also help maintain regular fluid intake throughout the day.

Variety in Fluid Intake

If plain water is unappealing, consider hydrating alternatives that are also gentle on the stomach. Options include:

  • Ginger ale: Soothing for the stomach and refreshing.
  • Coconut water: A natural source of electrolytes and less sugary than sports drinks.
  • Sports drinks: Effective for rapid electrolyte replenishment but opt for low-sugar versions.
  • Broth: Warm and soothing, helps replenish sodium and maintains electrolyte balance.

Soothe Your Throat

For sore throat relief, gentle hydrating options include:

  • Hot tea: Herbal varieties like chamomile can be very soothing.
  • Broth: Either as warm soup or sipped from a cup.
  • Popsicles: or ice chips can numb and soothe a sore throat effectively.

Monitoring and Managing Electrolytes

Especially when dealing with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, maintaining a balance of electrolytes is crucial. Electrolyte powders or sports drinks can be valuable for their sodium, potassium, and magnesium content, supporting hydration and muscle function.

Creating a Hydration Plan

Consider making a daily hydration plan that includes drinking a glass of water every two hours, incorporating hydrating foods into meals, and preparing hydrating snacks such as fruit popsicles or jelly, which can make staying hydrated more enjoyable and effective.

By prioritizing hydration and being mindful of your body's needs, you can ensure a smoother and quicker recovery process when sick. Stay hydrated, stay healthy!


Understanding the importance of staying hydrated while sick cannot be overstated. Proper hydration helps alleviate symptoms, speeds up recovery, and prevents the onset of more severe health issues. Always prioritize fluid intake and consult healthcare providers when symptoms escalate.

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ's

What is the recommended amount of water to drink when you are sick?

When you're sick, it's crucial to increase your fluid intake beyond the usual recommendation of eight 8-ounce glasses per day. For adults, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences suggest about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men daily, including all beverages and water-rich foods.

Why is staying hydrated especially important when you have the flu or a cold

Hydration is key during a cold or flu as it helps maintain normal body temperature, lubricates joints, protects tissues, and assists in flushing out waste and pathogens. Adequate fluid intake supports the immune system's function in fighting the illness and mitigates the symptoms of dehydration.

What are the signs of dehydration when sick?

Key signs of dehydration when sick include extreme thirst, dry mouth, dark-colored urine, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and reduced frequency of urination. If dehydration worsens, it can lead to severe symptoms like confusion, rapid breathing, and fainting, requiring immediate medical attention.

Can drinking fluids cure a cold or help recover faster from the flu?

While staying hydrated doesn’t directly cure a cold or accelerate recovery from the flu, it does support overall health by ensuring the body functions optimally. Proper hydration helps manage and alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu, making the illness more tolerable and potentially shortening the duration of symptoms.

What are some effective ways to stay hydrated when you have a sore throat or nausea?

For sore throats, soothing drinks like warm herbal teas or cool water can be effective. Ice chips and popsicles also help numb the soreness. When nauseous, take small, frequent sips of mild fluids like ginger ale, coconut water, or electrolyte-infused drinks to maintain hydration without aggravating the stomach.