How much fluid should I drink if I have COVID-19?

December 22, 2020

Dr Chase Ng Peng Yun, a junior doctor, shares his tips for staying hydrated if you have COVID-19.

We know it’s important to stay hydrated to stay healthy, but it’s even more important to keep our fluids up when we’re sick as we lose lots of water when our bodies fight infection. At the same time, drinking too much liquid can also be very dangerous so, here’s my advice for staying hydrated if you have COVID-19, or any other illness.  

How much do you need to drink every day?

A general rule of thumb is that a healthy individual needs to drink around 25 to 30 millilitres of fluid per kilogram of bodyweight every day to stay hydrated. 

So someone who weighs 60 kilos will need to drink a minimum of 1.5 litres (6 cups) of fluid, while someone weighing 80 kilos will need to drink 2 litres (8 cups).  

But that’s not all. Your body also loses water in certain situations - such as sweating in hot weather, from exercise or from a fever, or through diarrhea and vomiting - which also needs to be replaced. 

So, if you have a fever (a key symptom associated with COVID-19) we recommend drinking an extra 500 ml (2 cups) of fluid a day. And if you have diarrhea or vomiting, you should also make sure you’re replacing that lost water by sipping more drinks through the day.  

How do I know if I am dehydrated?

Learn how to listen to your body and spot the signs of dehydration. Look out for:

  • Dark yellow and strong-smelling urine
  • Peeing little and fewer than 4 times a day
  • Dry mouth and/or skin
  • Thirst
  • Headache
  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling tired and/or dizzy
  • Confusion and/or agitation

To stay hydrated, make sure you’re drinking enough that your pee is a clear pale yellowy colour throughout the day.

It’s best to drink plain water where possible, rather than lots of soft drinks or juices.  Avoid excessive amounts of tea, coffee and alcohol as they can make you more dehydrated.

Seek urgent medical attention if you are constantly dizzy, become confused, have fits (seizures) or have not peed all day.

Water Intoxication - the danger of drinking too much water 

While it’s important to stay hydrated, be careful not to overdo it. Drinking excessive amounts of fluid doesn’t improve your health or ‘flush out an illness’, and it can be very dangerous. 

Water intoxication, if untreated, can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, coma and death.

If you've been drinking an unusually large amount of liquid, such as a few litres of fluid every hour for several hours, look out for these signs of overhydration: 

  • Headache
  • Muscle cramp, spasm and/or weakness
  • Feeling sick and/or vomiting
  • Feeling tired and/or dizzy
  • Confusion and/or agitation

Some of these symptoms are very similar to those of dehydration, but the key difference is the colour and volume of your pee. Drinking a lot of water will cause frequent peeing and your urine will be very pale, almost water like.

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