Short Answer: When you have a common cold, you can drink either regular coffee or decaf. However, if you have the flu, caffeine may interfere with one of your medications and cause more harm.
It’s natural to crave familiar comfort food and beverage when you’re sick. For some people, their comfort drink is coffee.
The good thing about drinking coffee when you’re sick is that it contains properties that can help you get back on your feet. According to one study, both regular and decaf improved common cold symptoms.
This isn’t the case with the flu which is more severe than a common cold. As a result, coffee consumption can have an adverse effect rather than a positive one.
For healthy adults, coffee does not pose health risks when consumed in moderation. It may even have some health benefits due to its high antioxidant content.
However, you may be wondering if it’s safe to drink coffee while sick with the flu. I’m wondering too because I love coffee but I too get sick sometimes.
The drink has advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of illness you have. It may also interact with some of the medications you’re taking to treat your condition.
Come and examine with me whether you can drink coffee while you’re sick with the flu because I’m really curious if you and I can.
Is coffee good during the flu?
Coffee consumption is not recommended when you have the flu. This is because of its caffeine content.
When you have the flu, you’ll feel several symptoms like
- high fever
- feeling chilly
- stuffy or runny nose
- body pains
- feeling tired
- vomiting and diarrhea
According to the CDC, people who have the flu should avoid caffeinated drinks as it aggravates dehydration, especially when you have a sore throat, you’re vomiting, or have diarrhea.
It’s different when you have a cold. You can still have coffee but in moderation.
Based on a study done at the University of Bristol, coffee be it regular or decaf has a positive effect on people who have colds.
Typically, when you catch a cold, you experience malaise. This simply means that your body works a little slower and with a lower level of alertness. Coffee helps in making you alert especially when you need to move or work.
Consumption of coffee during illness has its pros and cons so let’s check out each one of them:
Coffee is high in antioxidants which fight against inflammation and boosts the immune system.
Remember that research I mentioned a while ago that discovered caffeine to have benefits to people suffering from the common cold?
What happened was that after the participants in the study drank coffee, they reported that their grogginess had disappeared. Their alertness level was the same as that of the healthy group.
Although coffee has numerous health benefits, it can slow down your recovery process.
Caffeine’s diuretic effect may cause dehydration if consumed while you’re sick with the flu especially if you have diarrhea or you’re vomiting. Fluid loss can cause symptoms to worsen or delay recovery.
Caffeine can also irritate your throat more if you already have a sore throat with the flu.
Rest is essential in recovering from any illness and the caffeine content in coffee can hinder you from getting much-needed sleep. It’s during sleep that our body repairs itself.
It’s fine to drink coffee if you’re feeling under the weather. But if you have the flu, you should avoid drinking coffee or anything with caffeine until you feel better.
It’s best to stick to water and other fluids that don’t contain caffeine or alcohol.
If you have a mild cold, coffee can be a helpful hot drink that will help you stay alert. Simply drink your morning cup of coffee with a large glass of water and take some over-the-counter cold medication for a quick boost of energy and relief.
At night, switch to herbal teas instead of coffee and a nighttime formulation to help relieve your symptoms while you rest.
Should I drink coffee with aspirin?
Some people suffering from flu take aspirin and drink hot tea or coffee. This isn’t advisable according to the two pharmacologists – Michael Dascombe and Anthony Milton from the University of London’s Pharmacy School.
Aspirin helps in reducing your high temperature, but caffeine – a stimulant present in coffee and tea – appears to keep body heat up when consumed in large quantities. Therefore, the two components cancel out each other’s effects.
Though doctors are unsure how caffeine inhibits aspirin’s cooling properties, they suspect caffeine stimulates the release of some fever-producing hormones.
Further study is still needed to confirm this assumption so doctors simply advise people who have the fever to avoid coffee, tea, or any beverage containing caffeine. It’s always best to use water when washing down aspirin or any medication.
How does caffeine affect our immune system?
Caffeine works as an immunomodulator or a substance that helps normalize or regulate the immune system.
Caffeine, according to a study published in Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2006 by the National University of Ireland, reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This can help patients suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis and psoriasis.
Coffee contains antioxidants that boost immunity and may help prevent certain cancers, heart diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurological illnesses.
These positive effects can only be experienced when you consume coffee in moderation.
Now that we’ve discussed the positive effects of coffee on your immune system, let’s look at what excessive coffee consumption can do it.
As previously stated, when consumed in moderation, coffee can be very beneficial to your immune system. Too much coffee can have adverse effects.
Caffeine consumption in excess can impair your immune system’s ability to fight infections and remove damaged or abnormal cells.
Caffeine consumption also raises levels of a stress hormone known as cortisol.
Cortisol releases fat and sugar from your body’s storage to provide you with the required energy to physically exert yourself during stressful instances.
Excessive release of cortisol results in high blood pressure, acne, weight gain, high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and suppresses the immune system.
Over intake of caffeine can also cause or exacerbate restlessness, panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, upset stomach, irritability, tachycardia, and addiction.
If you experience any of these side effects after drinking any caffeinated beverage, I recommend switching to a variant with less caffeine or simply limiting your caffeine consumption.
If you want an in-depth read on the unhealthy effects of coffee, you can check out my post right here.
Watch the video to learn more about how coffee affects the immune system:
Which coffee is best for the flu?
Though coffee and other caffeinated beverages are not recommended when you have the flu, those who find it really difficult to give up their morning cup may opt for decaf to avoid the diuretic effect of caffeine which causes dehydration. Just make sure to still drink it in moderation.
I have a comprehensive post on decaf coffee if you want to know more about this variant.
Still, it’s always best to go for other healthy coffee alternatives that can help you recover.
If you want to keep an eye on the caffeine content of your coffee, the table below can tell you how much caffeine is present in these popular coffee varieties.
|Coffee variant||Serving size||Caffeine content|
|Espresso (double shot)||59.2ml||126mg|
|Latte (double shot)||59.2ml + milk||126mg|
|Brewed filter coffee||240ml||96mg|
|Instant coffee||2 teaspoons, dissolved in water||63mg|
Alternatives to coffee when you’re sick with flu
Instead of a cup of coffee, there are a variety of cool and warm beverages that are soothing to drink when you’re sick.
It doesn’t get any simpler than this! While you’re sick with the flu or a cold, it’s important to keep your body hydrated with plenty of water to help your body recover quickly.
2. Sports drinks
Flavored sports drinks can be a great tasting alternative to water if you’re looking for something a little more exciting than water as it also contains vitamins and minerals to aid your recovery.
3. Clear broth
When you’re sick, it’s normal for your appetite to decrease. Sipping on some warm, clear broth can help you stay hydrated while also filling your stomach.
4. Warm lemon water with honey
Warm water with honey and lemon is a very soothing drink that can help clear congestion while also keeping you hydrated.
To sum it all up
Coffee may not be a good choice if you have the flu because the caffeine in it can cause dehydration, which can worsen your condition.
When you have the flu, you also may have sore throat, diarrhea, or are vomiting. Coffee causes your throat to become drier and dehydrates you because of its diuretic effect.
The caffeine in coffee may also prevent you from getting the much-needed rest and sleep needed for a sure recovery.
But when you have a cold, you can still drink coffee, but only in moderation.
Malaise is a common symptom when you have a cold. This simply means that your body is working a little slower and you’re less alert. Coffee can help you stay awake, especially if you need to move or work.
Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages should not also be used to wash down aspirin to reduce fever because they cancel each other out.
Other beverages that can help you stay hydrated and soothe you when you have the flu include water, a warm clear broth, or warm honey and lemon.
When you feel better, you can always go back to your favorite coffee drink which is waiting for you with open arms.