Are Extra Fluids Really the Cure?

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Drink lots of fluids!” says every mom to their sick child, and for good reason; Health Canada lists “fluids” as a treatment for mild flu symptoms, while the Kidney Foundation of Canada recommends about six glasses per day for the treatment of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). However, research shows that more fluids may not be the answer.

A recently published case study in the BMJ Case Reports journal is requesting that more research be done to back this claim. Two U.K.-based doctors looked at a case where one woman with a UTI developed hyponatraemia, or water intoxication, after the 59-year-old woman drank several litres of water in an attempt to “flush out her system.” As doctors restricted her water intake to one litre per day, her symptoms diminished.

Dr. Laura Lee, co-author of the report, suggested that “more research is needed into how much fluid to drink and what type of fluid to drink during illness.” The amount of fluid intake recommended for each person varies on many factors, Lee explains, based on “how much activity you engage in, the climate, your metabolism etc.” Health Canada doesn’t list recommendations because “a wide range of intakes are compatible with normal hydration, and thus a specific requirement could not be set.” However, the Dietitians of Canada guidelines suggest drinking 3 litres of fluid for men and 2.2 litres for women.

So while there are theoretical benefits to drinking more fluids when you are sick, especially in the cases of increased sweating, or episodes of vomiting, it’s not a blanket solution, and H2O enthusiasts should proceed with caution.

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