Drinking plenty of water every day is a simple yet vital part of staying healthy — your body requires adequate hydration to regulate its temperature, deliver nutrients to cells, maintain organ function, digest food, and keep joints lubricated. Being well-hydrated also boosts your cognitive function and enhances your mood.
Getting enough liquids becomes all the more important when your immune system is fighting off an infection. When you catch a virus — whether it’s influenza, COVID-19, or the common cold — your body requires even more fluids to maintain optimal function.
As urgent care specialists who diagnose and treat common illnesses every day at our walk-in clinic in Orangevale, California, our team at American River Urgent Care gives the same key advice to everyone we see: don’t skimp on the liquids. Here’s why.
Hydration and your health
Water is a major component of every cell in your body. In fact, you are mostly made of water — this basic, life-sustaining liquid accounts for about 60% of your total body weight. Water isn’t a self-sustaining nutrient; however, it’s an essential nutrient that you must replenish and restore throughout the day to keep yourself well-hydrated and healthy.
How much water should I drink?
You’ve probably heard the common piece of advice that you should drink eight glasses of water each day to stay hydrated. While that’s an easy-to-remember, reasonable goal, the amount of water you actually need each day is based on a range of factors.
The kind of climate you live in (dry, humid, or temperate), your activity and fitness levels, and your overall health status are just a few things that can shape your hydration needs.
Water intake vs. fluid intake
According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, fluid intake needs for the average healthy adult are:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations consider the fact that drinking water isn’t the only way to get water: your total fluid intake includes the water you drink, the fluids that come from other beverages, and the water found in fruits, vegetables, and other foods. About 80% of your daily fluid intake comes from drinks, and the remaining 20% comes from foods.
Staying hydrated when you’re sick
When you’re fighting off a viral infection like a cold, your immune system shifts into overdrive to vanquish the cell-invading microbes and restore normal health. To do that, it triggers a wide range of symptoms designed to help your body shed as much of the virus as possible.
Cold symptoms are dehydrating
Many common cold symptoms — including a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, post-nasal drip, and watery eyes — are generated by your immune system using water. Unless you replenish those fluids consistently, your cold symptoms can be dehydrating.
Mucus production is the main dehydrating symptom of a cold virus, but other infections and illnesses can diminish your fluid reserves through fever and sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Hydration helps you feel better
It’s not just that you shouldn’t skimp on liquids when you have a cold — you should increase your fluid intake to ensure your body has all the water it needs to both function normally and kill the invading virus before it leads to a sinus infection or a chest cold.
Keeping yourself well-hydrated helps alleviate your symptoms so you feel better faster; it also helps your immune system work efficiently, so you recover quickly. Luckily, the best self-care for a cold is very simple: Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
How to maintain proper hydration
Making water your drink of choice is the healthiest way to maintain optimal hydration — it won’t give you any calories, sugar, or caffeine you don’t want or need.
That said, all beverages are hydrating, including your morning cup of coffee or tea; just keep caffeinated drinks to a minimum when you’re sick, as they have a mild diuretic effect that makes you urinate more.
If your cold is especially severe, try adding an electrolyte beverage to the mix. Electrolytes are essential minerals — like sodium, potassium, and chloride — that help the body maintain fluid balance at the cellular level.
So what’s the easiest way to tell if you’re well-hydrated? Always quench your thirst, and drink enough fluids to maintain pale yellow or colorless (clear) urine.
If you’re feeling under the weather, our team at American River Urgent Care can help. Call 916-287-8569 or click online to schedule a same-day visit at your convenience, or simply stop in any time during our normal business hours.