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Is Hydration Key For The Fight Against COVID-19?

Updated: May 4, 2022

As a septic shock survivor, the COVID-19 pandemic is a constant reminder that sepsis is currently affecting people all over the world in their fight against the coronavirus.

According to the website of the American Medical Association :

“Surviving severe COVID-19 means surviving viral sepsis. And while there is little published data on long-term outcomes of severe COVID-19, what is known is that recovering from sepsis caused by other pathogens is a long and difficult process that includes, among other things, increased odds of cognitive impairment and functional limitations—even down to inability to bathe, toilet or dress independently.”

Studies show that patients with COVID-19 have a 5% risk of developing a critical illness and being admitted to the ICU.

Respiratory failure, secondary bacterial infection, septic shock and multiple organ failure are an example of the possible causes for hospitalization in those with COVID-19.

But does hydration status play a role in modifying risk?

Let’s find out.

Hydration And COVID-19 Outcomes

The totality of experimental, clinical and epidemiological evidence suggests that chronic sub-optimal hydration in the weeks before infection may increase the risk of COVID-19 mortality through a variety of mechanisms.

Fortunately, most cases of COVID-19 are mild and recovery takes place at home.

Keep in mind though that unintentional weight loss during illness may indicate that there’s a loss of fluids, a utilization of the body’s fat and muscle/protein for energy and the maintenance of bodily functions.

With that in mind, here is what to do while recovering at home:

1) Watching out for signs of dehydration is imperative : increase in thirst, fever, dark coloured urine, reduction of urine output, dry mouth, increased heart rate and feeling tired and confused.

2) Drinking water and liquids every hour (a minimum of 60 ml to 120 ml of water every 15 minutes).

The role of adequate hydration cannot be understated, but as a dietitian I must also ask the role nutrition could have in preventing infection.

The Role Of Nutrition – Is There One?

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that individual foods or nutrients offer special acute protection from COVID-19.

With that said, each stage of the body’s immune response relies on many micronutrients, specifically: C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein (including the amino acid glutamine).

Eating enough of these nutrients as part of a varied diet is required for the health and function of all cells, including immune cells and any dietary pattern that is limited in variety and rich in ultra-processed foods will negatively affect immunity.

It is also suggested that a diet high in refined sugar and red meat, and low in fruits and vegetables can promote a dysbiosis of the microbiome, which will result in chronic inflammation of the gut, and is also associated with suppressed immunity.

Bonus Tip 1 – Enhance Your Hydration Strategy

Healthy people should hydrate themselves gradually throughout the day and get about 1 to 1.5 liters of water to prevent dehydration.

"The kidneys lose some ability to eliminate water as we age. It's important to stay hydrated gradually, throughout the day," says Dr. Shifter (Medical Education, Harvard).

Bonus Tip 2 – Keep Your Environment Humid

Both bacteria and viruses are less effective in a moist environment. The protective effects of humidity on the mucosal barrier may be an important element to consider.

If exposed to dry air, these barriers dry out and cannot perform their protective functions.

It would be essential to aggressively promote active re-humidification of dry air with the rapidly progressing COVID-19 pandemic.

Closing Thoughts

No one can deny the fact that many aspects of our lives have been changed as a result of the pandemic.

Social distancing, face masks, good hand hygiene, adequate hydration and nutrition all play an important role.

As research is evolving, less costly, more equitable and accessible strategies will hopefully emerge.  

This article was written with the collaboration of Kaleigraphy, Andy De Santis. Stay tuned for more articles on my blog!

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