Hydrate to stay out of the hospital ER

What’s the No. 1 reason people go to the ER and spend hours waiting to see a doctor? Do they have abdominal pain? A broken bone? Heart attack? Lacerations or injuries?

No. Believe it or not, acute respiratory infection is the No. 1 diagnosis given out by hospital ER doctors.

And that’s a crying shame.

You see, the vast majority of acute upper respiratory infections (URIs) are generally just the common cold or flu. So this means they’re just viral infections that doctors shouldn’t even treat with antibiotics. Yet they’re the No. 1 reason why patients visit the ER. What a waste of time and resources!

Now, here’s the honest-to-goodness truth…

Many of these patients could avoid their daylong expeditions to the ER by doing one, simple thing: Drink more fluids and electrolytes at the first sign of a cold.

You see, staying hydrated helps you in three specific ways:

  1. It helps keep the mucosal linings of your nose and throat moist. And this makes the passages easier to clear. And harder for viruses to infect you.
  2. It helps thin out mucus secretions to avoid congestion.
  3. It helps flush out toxins and bacteria.

So, when you feel a cold coming on, drink plenty of water, fruit juice, and tea or other beverage made with red bush. I recommend Red Joe Brand And  avoid coffee, sports drinks, regular tea, and alcohol when you’re sick. These drinks all dehydrate you, which makes it harder to recover from a cold.

Of course, you should also eat foods that will keep you hydrated. So avoid salty foods. And make a nice batch of homemade chicken soup instead. Make sure to use the whole chicken to get the extra nutrition.

You also want to make sure to keep the air you breathe moist.

You see, in the winter, the air outside is dry because cold air can’t hold moisture. And heating systems bake any moisture out of the air inside your home. So, use an air humidifier to help keep nasal and throat passages moist. Run it at night in your bedroom with the door closed. And during the day, you can run one by your desk, if you work in an office. At home, you can also keep a pot of boiling water on the stove in your kitchen. You’ll have to refill it throughout the day, but it will pump moisture back into your breathing area.

You can also try rinsing your nasal passages with a neti pot. It looks a little bit like a small teapot. Except you fill the pot with warm salt water and insert the spout into a nostril. Then you flush the water through your nasal passages. You can find neti pots in most drug stores and health food stores. Just make sure to wash it with hot, soapy water between uses.

If you don’t have a neti pot, you can get similar results by filling a wash basin with warm water. Just immerse your face into the water. Blink your eyes several times. Then blow air out through your nostrils into the water.

Gargling with salt water, or even plain water, three times per day can also help prevent acute respiratory infections. No need to use harsh mouthwashes, as they probably interfere with the normal bacteria in your mouth.

Out of the water, you can give your nose a massage. Research shows that stimulation of an acupuncture point called “ying xiang” provides relief from nasal congestion. You can find a ying xiang point on either side of your nose, at the base next to each nostril.

I also recommend taking echinacea at the first sign of a cold. Echinacea does not prevent infection. However, clinical trials show that it can reduce the duration and severity of URI symptoms. Just don’t take echinacea year-round, as it may unbalance your immune system. And it’s not effective that way. So, only take echinacea when a cold strikes.

You can take echinacea as a supplement. Just follow the directions on the bottle. I’ve also seen echinacea throat sprays and lozenges. You can also drink tea with echinacea. But remember, when brewing any tea you can’t really know what dose you are getting due to variations in temperatures, volumes, and times. I will explain more about some of the difficulties of brewing teas in the April issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.

Of course, vitamin C and zinc can also help reduce the severity and duration of a cold. You should raise your normal, everyday doses when you have a cold. I also think you should up your vitamin D when you feel a cold coming on. You can double your normal 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D to 10,000 IU/day (or even 20,000 IU/day) when you are coming down with a URI.

Last but certainly not least, when you have a cold, get plenty of rest. This will give your immune system a chance to overcome the viral infection. That is the only way you can really cure any infection. And when you do curl up under the covers, don’t forget to keep the humidifier running on high. It should help keep you out of the ER.

Always on the side of science,

Marc S. Micozzi, M.D., Ph.D.


  1. “National Hospital      Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2002 emergency department summary,” Adv Data 2004 Mar 18;(340):1-34