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Drinking coffee when sick: is it safe?

Drinking coffee when sick: is it safe?

There’s nothing worse than falling under the weather or coming down with the flu. Well, except maybe going without your morning cup of joe. Giving up coffee when you’re feeling down combines two bad experiences (illness and caffeine withdrawal) into one terrible one.

Fortunately for laid up java lovers, you don’t have to give up your coffee habit when you get sick or start feeling ill. However, that doesn’t mean that drinking coffee while sick is recommended either. This is because coffee can make you feel better when you’re feeling low, but your body may also disagree with it.

If this sounds at all confusing to you, read on. In this brief guide, we’ll get to the bottom of whether it’s safe to drink coffee while sick or if it’ll only make matters worse.

What the science says

The scientific literature on the subject of caffeine and illness is somewhat barren. There is, however, one notable study that examined the relationship between caffeinated beverages and what the researchers called “malaise” (i.e., reduced alertness and wakefulness, slow psychomotor activity).

The study, which dates back to 1997, found evidence to support drinking caffeine when sick with the common cold. The researchers noted that those who consumed caffeinated beverages while sick were able to reduce the malaise that accompanies illness. Interestingly, the study discovered that coffee consumption resulted in less malaise than juice or tea consumption.

Coffee and your health

It’s no secret that a strong cup of coffee can put a little pep in your step, but coffee’s general health benefits are not so widely known. Below, we’ve listed a handful of coffee’s foremost health benefits that can help you bust out of your slump and speed up your recovery to full health.


As we age, our bodies undergo a long process of cellular damage that can cause disease and illness. Cell damage in the body is caused, primarily, by oxidation. Fortunately, coffee is loaded with chemical antioxidant properties which slow or stop cells from oxidizing.

Coffee is such a powerful antioxidant that it produces hundreds of times more antioxidant activity than Vitamin C. Its reputation as an oxidation-fighting agent has made coffee a “health food” in some circles.


Believe it or not, coffee heightens one’s pain threshold. A research paper from 2007 found that caffeine, a double-blind, placebo-controlled environment, diminished muscle pain intensity in college-aged adults.

In other words, caffeinated coffee blunts feelings of pain in the body’s muscles and connective tissue. If your illness is causing you to ache, consider having a cup of coffee (with a tall glass of water) to see if the pain subsides.

Increases fiber intake

Believe it or not, but coffee contains up to two grams of fiber. Healthy adults are expected to consume between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fiber per day. Although it’s not much, the couple of grams of fiber from a cup of coffee can go a long way toward restoring proper bowel function and resetting your body’s digestive rhythm.

Reduces depression

When we get sick, we’re prone to feeling “down in the dumps.” Major illnesses can cause depressive episodes to last several days or weeks, which can become a serious medical issue in its own right. To prevent the onset of illness-induced depression, consider drinking coffee to keep your mood elevated and your spirits high while laid up in bed.

Factors to keep in mind

It’s important to remember that coffee is a highly acidic drink. Unfortunately, this means that coffee can irritate your throat or worsen a cough. If you find that your coffee consumption is making your throat uncomfortable, stop drinking it, and switch to an herbal tea instead. Alternatively, you could add honey to your coffee to help soothe your irritated throat or cough.

We all know that coffee is addictive. Like any other addiction, withdrawal symptoms can set in if you don’t get your “fix.” When we get sick, sometimes we forget about our morning cup of coffee, and by the time the evening rolls around, we feel terrible. This horrible feeling is caused by a combination of caffeine withdrawal symptoms and the flu bug itself.

To prevent the onset of caffeine withdrawal, consider starting your day with a mild cup of coffee with natural honey and a glass of water. The water keeps you hydrated, the coffee energized, and the honey will soothe an achy throat.

Get your R&R

Nothing heals a flu bug or common cold like good old-fashioned bed rest. If you decide to drink coffee while sick, make sure you don’t drink it too late in the day so that it interrupts your sleep schedule. Laying wide awake at night because you’re buzzing from a caffeine overload is a surefire way to keep you feeling down the next day.

If you’re still feeling sluggish and crummy after getting your morning coffee, drinking plenty of water, and getting a good night’s sleep, then you might need some extra help. Consider these handy health-accelerating tips and tricks for getting out of bed and making a speedy recovery:

  • Put fruit wedges or cucumber slices in a water jug to encourage hydration
  • Rest 8-10 hours per night
  • Gargle saltwater (a ¼-½ teaspoon of salt) to relieve a scratchy throat
  • Use nasal drops to get rid of stuffiness
  • Add moisture to the room with a humidifier to loosen up congestion

Everything in moderation

Coffee is meant to be enjoyed in moderation, and this is especially true of coffee consumption when you’re sick or feeling unwell. If you drink too much coffee while you’re feeling down, you might dehydrate or even compromise your immune system—neither will do you much good if you’re trying to bounce back from a cold or the flu.

While you can drink your morning (and maybe afternoon) cup of coffee while you’re sick, don’t overdo it. Ensure that you also drink plenty of water between your coffee and load up on common cold and flu medicine for symptom relief and faster recovery.

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