Can drinking a little bit of whisky when I'm sick help?
January 31, 2005 7:48 AM   Subscribe

For the last few days I think I've been suffering from a very mild stomach flu. Nothing virulent, just enough to make me at times mildly uncomfortable. A friend of mine wants me to meet him for a drink tonight. I've heard that whisky can kill microbes in the stomach. Is this true? If so, would a couple of fingers of whisky be a good idea tonight?

I was vaccinated for the flu this year, but the flu virus mutates during flu season, so is it possible that I picked up a very mild case of what has been a really virulent flu this season (this year's symptoms in Spain included vomiting and diarrhea)?
posted by sic to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
IANAD, but I'm pretty sure that good hydration is recommended to hasten recovery from the flu. Alcohol would seem to be counterproductive to this objective.
posted by casu marzu at 7:57 AM on January 31, 2005

Whiskey can sterilize cuts, but in the stomach, it breaks down into methanol. It's better to stay "dry" until you're over your condition. If it persists or worsens in the following weeks, see a doctor.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:12 AM on January 31, 2005

Brandy is the traditional tipple for a dodgy stomach, I can't say I've ever heard whisky being used. I don't think the whisky would do you any harm but at the same time it's not going to cure anything. Just make sure you go somewhere where you know you can depend on the toilets!
posted by john-paul at 8:24 AM on January 31, 2005

"Many people use the term 'stomach flu' to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria, or even parasites. While vomiting, diarrhea, and being nauseous or "sick to your stomach" can sometimes be related to the flu – particularly in children – these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease." - CDC Web Site

It could be any number of things making your stomach feel upset, but if I were you I'd stay away from the booze. :) Ginger ale and saltine crackers worked wonders for me, last time I had a stomach bug.
posted by knave at 8:42 AM on January 31, 2005

posted by Frasermoo at 8:49 AM on January 31, 2005

The stomach flu is, in most cases, not the same as the respiratory flu.

I'd avoid the drink, but ethanol doesn't break down to methanol in the stomach. Methanol is deadly. Ethanol is absorbed, and detoxified in the liver.
posted by gramcracker at 8:52 AM on January 31, 2005

You're right, gramcracker - I guess I was thinking of "Midnight Whiskey".
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:19 AM on January 31, 2005

Whisky is a digestif and can aid in discomfort from indisgestion, perhaps this is where the idea that it might help with other stomach discomforts came from?
posted by biffa at 9:29 AM on January 31, 2005

Your GI upset is probably due to a virus, which can't be killed by whiskey. It's probably not caused by the influenza virus you were vaccinated against - there are thousands of species of viruses, and those are just the ones we know about. The influenza vaccine only protects against a very small subset of one species of virus.

Ethanol in even very small amounts causes an 'ileus' - that is, it shuts down the muscular contractions of the gut. You might find that soothing. On the other hand, it might just make you feel sicker. Hard to say.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:36 AM on January 31, 2005

Thank you all for the sensible advice. I think I'll pass on the whisky tonight.
posted by sic at 9:45 AM on January 31, 2005

Some studies have indicated that white wine can be beneficial for certain types of stomach bacteria. Link
posted by barkingpumpkin at 10:24 AM on January 31, 2005

Sounds like a wise choice. Good luck, Mrs. Clinton.
posted by metaculpa at 2:49 PM on January 31, 2005

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