Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
With the many respiratory viruses going around, I’m reminded of an old adage: Feed a cold and starve a fever. Does this time-worn advice hold true?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
Probably not. Most physicians agree that you want to keep eating, regardless of your temperature.
Two decades ago, Dutch scientists attempted to put this theory to the test. They did find that eating a meal increases a type of immune response that helps ward off some viruses responsible for colds, while fasting stoked an immune response that could assist in quelling infections linked with many fevers.
However, that study involved only a handful of people. And its findings have never been replicated.
As a result, most experts have ignored this study, at least when it comes to fevers. Instead, they recommend the same “feeding” approach for both colds and fevers, which, as we’ve seen with Covid-19 and influenza, can often overlap symptomatically.
That means getting adequate nutrition, as your body needs energy to fight an illness. You should also be sure to drink sufficient fluids.
In fever, you can dehydrate due in part to elevated body temperature. With respiratory infections, dried mucus clogs sinuses and respiratory tubes. Staying hydrated will keep the mucus flowing, helping you breathe and allowing your body to expel mucus and all the germs it contains.
Optimal recovery also means ensuring your body receives plenty of rest. Supplements like zinc, echinacea and vitamins C and D have what can, at best, be described as a spotty track record of helping.
Next week, we’ll talk about over-the-counter remedies.
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!