Is Coffee Bad for You When You Have a Cold?

by Peter Taylor | Last Updated: 5 February 2020

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Is Coffee Bad for You When You Have a Cold?

Sniffles, chills, fever, and general malaise – all of these are the dreaded symptoms of a cold. When you wake up with these symptoms, it’s tempting to stick to your morning cup of coffee – but is that a good idea?

So, is coffee bad for you when you have a cold? It depends on how much you drink. One to two cups a day should help you keep your energy levels up. However, any more coffee than that, and you’ll likely make the cold worse because you’ll have a hard time sleeping.

In the rest of this article, we will answer some crucial questions about drinking coffee when you’re sick:

  1. What are the pros and cons of drinking coffee with a cold?
  2. Is coffee bad for your immune system?
  3. Is it okay to drink coffee with a sore throat?
  4. What should you drink when you are sick?

What are the pros and cons of drinking coffee with a cold?

Let’s start with the positive side effects of drinking coffee when you have a cold.

Malaise — that tired feeling of discomfort that keeps you in bed all day — is the bane of a cold.

Drinking coffee can help counteract that feeling and give you energy. Other than an energy boost and the enjoyment of drinking a cup of coffee, there are not many more benefits of drinking coffee once you already have a cold.

The main adverse effect of drinking coffee when you have a cold is that it keeps you awake.

Sleep is essential when you have a cold. It gives your body time to fight off infection and recharge. In this case, it is unfortunate that coffee is a stimulant and keeps you from getting the hours of rest that your body needs.

In the long run, having a cold does not mean that you need to give up coffee entirely. If you can’t call out of work, you’re going to need the energy boost.

Is coffee bad for the immune system?

Once again, it’s all about portions. A cup or two of coffee per day can be beneficial to the immune system, but too much can be harmful.

Coffee is full of polyphenols that act as antioxidants and fight off free radicals. These same antioxidants also help to fight off diseases, such as heart disease, type two diabetes, cirrhosis, and Alzheimer’s.

A cup of joe is also chock full of vitamins. Each cup contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and manganese. When drinking one to two cups of coffee per day, you may be helping your immune system and avoiding sickness.

On the other hand, too much caffeine can cause harm to your immune system.

Overdoing it can cause high anxiety, which can quickly lead to sickness. It can also cause high blood sugar and high cholesterol, which can be harmful to your immune system.

Additionally, too much coffee can lead to high levels of cortisol, which is the hormone that builds up when you’re stressed.

Is it okay to drink coffee with a sore throat?

If you have already fought off your sickness and have a lingering sore throat, there’s no need to avoid coffee. However, if you are still sick, the acidity of the coffee may cause pain while swallowing.

When you have a sore throat, your body does its best to fight off the infection. It does this by sending an influx of blood, white blood cells, and antibodies to the throat. In turn, this makes the glands swell and become very sensitive. Drinking something acidic, such as coffee or orange juice, with this inflammation can be painful.

Note: Although many people drink orange juice when they are sick because of its high Vitamin C content, it can make your sore throat more painful. The high acidity of the juice coming into contact with the sensitive and inflamed throat tissue is what causes the pain.

If swallowing causes you pain, but you need the energy, you may want to try out a cold brew. A cold brew still packs a great amount of caffeine but tends to be less acidic. Because of the way that it is brewed, a cold brew coffee is actually about seventy percent less acidic than a hot brewed coffee.

Is Coffee Bad for You When You Have a Cold?

The acidity of the coffee beans is released in a hot brew around 140-degrees Fahrenheit. Because cold brew coffee is brewed with cold or room temperature water, minimal oils and acidity are released from the beans during the long (12 to 48 hour) brewing process. This makes cold brew easier on both your throat and your stomach.

What should you drink when you’re sick?

We have not given coffee the ax, but some other alternatives will help you to hydrate, feel good, and continue on the road to recovery.

And, of course, drinking plenty of fluids when you are under the weather is crucial. Not only will fluids help to loosen up congestion, but they can also be soothing if you have a sore throat.

Depending on the severity of your cold, you may not have an appetite. If you’re not hungry, you’ll need liquids that have calories in them, like a juice or a smoothie.

Another option that will provide you with calories, fight infection, and lessen inflammation is bone broth. This miracle liquid is great for the prevention of colds and for helping you recover from a cold.

Hot tea is another excellent option that can be drunk in place of coffee. Many varieties still have a decent amount of caffeine but are not as acidic.

Aside from this, water is your best friend. There is nothing else that will fight dehydration more efficiently than water.

A couple of beverages to avoid include alcohol, energy drinks, and soda.

Alcohol lowers the ferociousness of your immune system, whether you are sick or not, and is also dehydrating. Energy drinks and soda all full of sugar and tend to be very acidic, which can upset your throat and stomach.


Here are some key points for you to take away from this post:

  1. If you are going to drink coffee while sick, do not drink more than two cups a day. Also, be sure to hydrate yourself with other beneficial liquids, such as water.
  2. Coffee is not inherently bad for your immune system. However, you should be careful not to overdo it. As they say, too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.
  3. Coffee on a sore throat is not necessarily a no-no. If the sore throat is lingering after a sickness, go for it. Just be cautious about how the coffee’s acidity can affect your throat and stomach.
  4. A cold brew is about seventy percent less acidic than your regular hot cup of joe. Not only will this brew be easier on your throat, but on your stomach as well. If coffee is causing you pain while swallowing, this is a great alternative.
  5. There are many other options to drink when you have a cold, some that will even give you some caffeine, such as tea. Other suggestions include water, bone broth, hot tea, or juice. If you do not have an appetite, a drink with calories will be the most beneficial for you.

Here’s the deal: if you want to drink coffee, drink it. However, you shouldn’t have too much, as it can keep you awake and cause pain in your throat with its acidity.

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