It is an old wives tale that you should take a drink of alcohol when you are sick. Some people believe that it works to kill whatever you are struggling with, but that is not the case in nearly all situations. The fact is, you should not drink alcohol while sick. Doing so could make you sicker and could create prolonged effects on your body and your immune system.
The Risks of Drinking Alcohol While Sick
What could go wrong if you drink alcohol while sick? You may be hoping for the alcohol to help with your coughing or congestion, but in fact, it may do more harm than good. Alcohol will further impact your immune system’s function. When you are sick, your body works to fight off the illness. That means your immune system has to work harder to develop white blood cells to target the illness and remove it. This means your immune system is working at a higher pace than normal.
The problem is alcohol isn’t good for your immune system. When you add alcohol to your body while your immune system is struggling, you are prolonging the process, and it’s likely you’ll be sicker longer.
Alcohol’s Effect on Immune System
The biggest risk of drinking alcohol while sick is the way it impacts the immune system. Alcohol is a toxin. When it enters the body, the kidneys and liver try to filter it out, but it does not remove enough of the substance. The alcohol gets into your bloodstream, and as it does, it limits the overall function of your brain and can cause problems with your immune system as a whole.
More specifically, consider how the immune system functions. When your body has a virus, the brain triggers an immune response. This means the body creates more white blood cells, and more energy is focused on helping to support the immune system as it seeks out and destroys the foreign pathogen. When you consume alcohol, it damages these immune cells. It also can damage the small hairs in your lungs, which could impair breathing.
In your gut, the alcohol can trigger the onset of inflammation. This makes it harder for the immune system to fight off the illness and puts you at risk for numerous health complications on top of the illness.
Other Risks of Drinking Alcohol While Sick
The immune system impact is the most significant when it comes to consuming alcohol while sick. However, there are other risks as well.
Alcohol can worsen symptoms.
This is a common problem for many people. When you consume alcohol, it works to dry out your body, working as a diuretic. As a result, this can create headaches and body aches. You will feel worse because the alcohol is creating more of a negative impact.
In some situations, alcohol can also cause nausea, vomiting, and gastro pain. You may find yourself even more tired and wanting to stay in bed. That is because the alcohol is exacerbating the symptoms of your illness. You feel far sicker with alcohol than you did without it.
Interactions with medications.
Alcohol can interact with and often limit the function of many of the medications your body needs for fighting off infection. Depending on the type of medications you are taking, you may see a significant difference in the way you feel.
For example, alcohol and acetaminophen do not mix. Many of the cold and flu medications you take will contain acetaminophen. When drinking alcohol with them, there is a significant risk of damage to the liver, which can cause long-lasting liver damage.
Alcohol can also interact with the function of chlorpheniramine maleate. This is a type of medication often used as an antihistamine to control itchy eyes, sneezing, and other cold-like symptoms. Alcohol makes nausea and extreme fatigue very common.
If you are taking a nasal decongestant of any type, it may contain phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine in it. These work well for sinus colds. When you mix them with alcohol, though, they can cause you to suffer from serious headaches and fatigue.
It’s often best to stick with just the medications you are taking. Avoid the use of alcohol until your symptoms improve.
Are You Struggling with Not Using Alcohol?
For a person with alcohol use disorder, it can be very difficult to stop using alcohol when you are sick. You may even recognize that it is making you feel worse. In these situations, it may be time to enter into treatment.
If you find that you’re struggling with addiction to alcohol, 1st Step Behavioral Health can help to get you on the path to experiencing a long-lasting, fulfilling life. Invest a few minutes today by calling or texting us at (855) 425-4846. Seek out the treatment for alcohol use disorder for yourself or a loved one today.