“Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever”


Do not use this Blog as Medical Advice, it is informational only, if you are sick, consult with your primary care physician

If you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ll have heard a lot of old sayings and ‘wives tales’, one of them being “Feed a cold, Starve a Fever”

What does that mean?  Where did it come from?

When people have a cold, there is usually no fever associated with it, you will probably get a runny nose and sore throat.  You are still hungry and need nutritious food to get well again, chicken or broth soup, hot tea for adults, is always a good start, try to avoid dairy as it makes mucous worse

Have orange juice for vitamin C and honey & lemon (1 tsp honey) or a throat lozenge for sore throats

They usually have good appetites, thus the term “feed a cold” as opposed to someone with the flu who is running a fever and the thought of food makes them want to throw up, thus “starve a fever”, what they need is fluids more than food


When people have the flu, they are often running a fever, are very lethargic and don’t want to eat anything. They run the risk of dehydration if they do not replenish the fluids that your body loses from excessive sweating / perspiration associated with a fever, sometimes they may have diarrhea or vomiting

They desperately need fluids back in their body to restore the electrolytes in their body. They can achieve this with drinking lots of water or some sports drinks (not too many of these, maybe one or two) or popsicles, or even having jello, flat sprite or ginger ale can also restore fluids in children

Once the fever is broken, slowly introduce (solids) food again, broth soup like chicken noodle is a good start

No one wants you to starve anyone, it is just an old saying, not literal

While no one is sure where the original phrase came from, it was thought to have come from advice columns of women’s journals & periodicals which used to offer parenting advice to new wives, mothers & homemakers, so they would know how to look after their family. It was a catchy phrase that reminded new mothers that feverish patients needed fluids more than food and cold patients still had an appetite and could eat solid food without making them nauseous



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