Most of us have had a moment when we chose to socialize and drink despite being sick. One moment you're happy and hygge, the next you're trying to stifle a cough so it doesn't spray germs all over the bar. Actually, people say that drinking hot toddies is good for you when you have a cold, because they'll alleviate a cough, soothe a sore throat, and basically put you to sleep. But is that legit or just something we tell ourselves to justify going out?
First of all, a classic hot toddy is a hot drink made with bourbon, honey, lemon juice, and hot water. Sometimes people mix up the recipe and make it with tea or a tea-like base, along with other spices, like cinnamon and cloves. But the dark booze and lemon juice are pretty standard.
Technically, a warm drink like a hot toddy would be helpful for someone who has a sore throat, phlegm in their chest, or a stuffy nose, says Alexis Halpern, MD, emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Certain types of honey, like manuka, have an antimicrobial effect on the body, which can ease a sore throat. Lemons contain vitamin C, and although that likely won't be enough to kick your cold, having a little flavor in your H2O could get you to drink more water.
But obviously many people order hot toddies for the alcohol in it. The alcohol in a hot toddy (or any drink, really) will likely help you fall asleep, Dr. Halpern says. "But, alcohol can delay getting better from any illness," she says. When you're sick, your body is working hard to get rid of the virus that's causing the illness. Alcohol not only weakens your immune system, but also adds yet another toxin to your body that needs to be cleared out, she says.
Also, alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it makes blood vessels expand and relax, Dr. Halpern says. When you have a stuffy nose, it's because the lining of your nasal passage is inflamed, and the blood vessels are dilated. Drinking alcohol could amp up this vasodilation, making you even stuffier.
So, while a night out with your friends and a few drinks might seem like just the cure you need, it'll actually just sideline you longer — and make you a walking incubus of viral plague.