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Should You Drink Coffee When Sick? What You Need to Know

barista holding a hot coffee in paper cup

When you are down with a cold, nothing sounds better than a warm drink. Your morning coffee perks you up and helps you get ready for the day — and don’t you need that even more when you’re sick? A hot cup of coffee might be very appealing, but there is a good reason you might want to steer clear until you feel better.

Today we’re taking a close look at how coffee affects you when you’re sick. You may be surprised by what we learned!

The Short Answer
Coffee can make you feel better, but it’s not necessarily good for you when you’re sick. You may want to save your best beans for when you feel better!
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Coffee Can Make You Feel Better…

This will come as no surprise to any coffee lover: coffee can perk you up and make you feel better. When you are sick, you probably feel tired and a little out of it, so a cup of coffee can give you a boost of energy and alertness that will help you get through your day.

According to one psychological study, drinking coffee helps get rid of “malaise” — the general feeling of being unwell — and this effect isn’t just the caffeine. Study participants who drank decaffeinated coffee also felt better! That suggests that the positive effects may be caused by some other compound in coffee or even the ritual of drinking coffee itself.

So drinking a cup of coffee when you’re sick may help you feel more like yourself. Caffeinated coffee, in particular, can help you feel more focused and alert. And if you’re used to drinking coffee every day, you risk getting a headache if you skip the java. But one question remains: will it help you get better faster?

a cup of coffee

…But It May Not Help You Get Better

Although that cup of coffee can make you feel better temporarily, it’s unlikely to cure you. Drinking coffee while you’re sick can actually slow down your healing — if it’s caffeinated.

That’s because caffeinated coffee can get in the way of a good sleep, which is extra important when you’re sick. It may also irritate your stomach, a particular problem if you’re experiencing symptoms like nausea or stomach ache.

middle aged woman touching her stomach
Image Credit: fizkes, Shutterstock

Tips for Drinking Coffee When Sick

If you decide that you do want that cup of coffee even though you’re sick, you may want to choose your coffee variety carefully. Low-acid coffee (like our favorite, Lifeboost) or cold brew can help you avoid irritating your stomach. Switching to decaf coffee can help you avoid negative caffeine side effects like sleeping poorly.

Most of all, make sure you drink plenty of water along with your coffee. Keeping yourself hydrated may help you feel better faster! Recommended drinks for when you’re sick include hot tea, Gatorade, and hot water with lemon and honey.

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Drinking Coffee When Sick: The Bottom Line

So should you drink coffee when sick? It’s up to you, of course, and will probably depend on how sick you are. If you’re looking for temporary relief or need to get something done, a cup of coffee may be just the thing. Just make sure you don’t drink it too late in the day — you’ll want to get a good sleep!

And if you want coffee that will be gentle on your stomach, try decaf or low-acid beans. Better yet, switch to coffee that’s both decaf and low-acid! We recommend Lifeboost’s delicious dark roast (and you can get 50% off!).


Featured Image Credit: Ivan Kurmyshov, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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