Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever?

Q:
Feed a cold, starve a fever?

A:
The saying “feed a cold, starve a fever” has been traced to a 1574 dictionary by John Withals, which noted that “fasting is a great remedy of fever.” The belief is that eating food may help the body generate warmth during a “cold” and that avoiding food may help it cool down when overheated.

If you’re not quite sure how this saying goes, you can relax: Starving is never the correct answer.

The truth, according to researchers, suggests that eating less during the early stages of an infection can actually be dangerous:

  • The body requires large amounts of energy to create and assemble the large number of immune cells necessary to fight the enemy.
  • Good nutrition and calories provide this energy.

Physicians and experts stand by traditional recommendations for colds and flu over the starve-a-fever adage:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace lost electrolytes.
  • Eat if you’re hungry.
  • Drink water or drinks with added electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte.

Keyword: feed cold starve fever

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.