Can 8 Cups a Day Protect You from Cold and Flu?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
My mom is a bit of a germaphobe, and I've inherited some of her tendencies, like always opening the door of a public restroom with a paper towel upon exiting or touching door handles in public places in less conspicuous places (where others are least likely to have touched them). I do things like this all the time, but when it's cold and flu season, my radar for germs is on full-force. I don't know about where you live, but something is definitely going around Cincinnati!

Everywhere I've gone the past couple of weeks, I've encountered sniffling, coughing people. At the grocery store, in the gym, and even in my workplace! One of my Pilates clients, a regular whom I usually train twice a week, went missing for three weeks straight. Turns out she had the swine flu, as did each of her kids (and every kid she cares for in her at-home daycare business). That really hit home for me. Needless to say, I'm doing everything in my power to avoid germs right now. I simply do not want to get sick!

I had a recent conversation with Coach Tanya that I just had to share. I'm sure that our dailySpark readers, water connoisseurs that you are, will appreciate this one!

We were talking about the recent SparkPeople convention and Tanya mentioned how she saw several members slip out during presentations to use the restrooms, apologizing as they went, cursing all that water drinking for making them need to visit the restroom so often. I'm sure you can relate, right? After all, SparkPeople is mad about water and so are our members. One of the unfortunate downsides of drinking so much water is that you have to "go" more often. I can't even tell you how many visits I make to the restroom each day (seriously I would probably lose count), but I know my 8-10 cups of water a day are to blame for it! Then Tanya said, "But all that hand washing they do each time they visit the restroom is going to help them avoid swine flu!" She had a point.

But is it possible that water drinking—or more accurately, all that restroom visiting—could actually help you avoid the cold and flu this season?

Health experts do say that hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent cold and flu, including H1N1, according to the CDC. And recently, researchers reviewed almost 60 studies about strategies that reduce the spread of germs and noted that washing your hands 10 times a day may help keep the flu away. In fact, it's about as effective as wearing gloves and masks—but much more realistic.

In addition, simply drinking water may help you fight off germs. According to registered dietitian and SparkPeople nutrition expert, Becky Hand, "water helps to cleanse the body and remove toxins, including germs. By keeping body systems, especially the respiratory system, well hydrated," she says, "you can enhance your virus-fighting potential."

So drinking water keeps you healthy; using the restroom as a result (making sure that you wash your hands) several times a day helps, too. Sounds like a win-win.

Unfortunately, as a nation we get a failing grade when it comes to washing our hands properly. A recent national survey found that only 85% of Americans wash their hands after going to the bathroom (ew!) and of those, less than half wash their hands long enough (20 seconds) to help prevent the spread of germs.

You may use the restroom a dozen times a day due to all that water you drink, but take heart. Instead of viewing these pit stops as inconveniences, start thinking of them as much-needed reminders. Each trip to the toilet is another chance to help keep yourself and your family healthy this fall, one more chance to wash the germs that may have accumulated on your hands down the drain before they get the best of you.

Now I'll drink another glass (of water) to that! Will you?

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I would have thought that it was a no-brainer that water was used to flush out toxins and by products, Report
huh I'd never thought of it that way, great article! Report
Water is the universal "good for you" product. And it doesn't have to be a product. You don't have to drink bottled water in order to have it be good for you. Tap water can be just as good if you use a clean glass or bottle to pour it in. A Britta pitcher in the refrigerator helps you have filtered cold water at all times. I love mine. Then I save an iced tea bottle that's been washed and fill it and stick it in my purse. I also love the new dial soft soap that foams as it comes out of the bottle. The scent is wonderful and it doesn't dry out your hands as much as the others.
This is a good reason to drink more water. I do wonder though. I drink a lot of unsweetened tea and if that would possibly be able to do the same? I mean it does flush the system and keeps a body hydrated. Not filled w/sugar and or additives. Hmmm? Anyone? Report
Lol, the restroom issue is one of the big reasons I simply can't drink that much water on work days. As an operating room nurse, I have to have some one relieve me in order to have a restroom break. I usually get relieved twice per work day. Not quite enough if I were drinking all that water! In addition, we're not allowed to have any form of food or drink in the OR, so finding the time to guzzle down the 6 glasses I'd have to consume before getting home is a little more than challenging, as well. I really envy everyone who has a job where they can drink and go to the restroom on their own time!! :) Report
I also use the hand sanitizer throughout the day at work. Report
who knew this could help in ways we had not known before? Report
This is great! I already wash my hands as often as possible to prevent germs...and the idea that drinking H20 could prevent colds and flus. I'm game to try it. Report
Thanks for giving me another excuse to drink water. Not that I needed another. LOL Report
Yep those stats are true about the "non-hand" washer. I work in an office and have witnessed several ladies leaving w/out washing. So I too use paper towels to exit the restroom and open the door back into the office. Great info! Report
It's true ..since joining sparkpeople I have definately noticed an increase in my washroom visits...all the water. But I too have also noticed that people do not all wash their hands properly. What good is it to just run it under water with no soap? It's not has if there isn't soap in the dispensor. Waters great to drink but you need soap!

I'm not sure about your grocery store but the one near me (Loblaws) has a disinfecting wipe dispensor where you get the shopping cart and you are suppose to wipe the handle.....maybe people need to lobby to make that manditory. Report
I have always been a big water drinker. The past two years, since having had gastric bypass surgery, and subsequently eating a MUCH healthier diet, I have rarely been sick (only a slight cold once or twice; no flu). I have four kids...I get a flu shot every year to help guard me against getting what the kids bring home from school.

I am not a hand-sanitizer fan, will only use it after using a porta-potty (ugh, I only use those when forced to), and I keep sanitizer in my car for other emergencies. But I still don't feel like my hands are clean afterwards, so as soon as I can get to water and soap, I wash again!

I believe worse than public toilets, shopping cart handles were proven to have the most germs. So I make it my first thing when I get home from the store to wash my hands. My kids help put groceries away? Then I make them wash their hands afterward, too. I also make them wash before each meal, as well as after each meal. Report
I definitely curse the amount of water I drink as I have to run to the washroom every hour on the hour but I never thought about the added benefits of more hand washing in my day! Thanks Nicole for the insight :) Report
Just plain water, no sugar added. Will drink more. Report
Wash your hands, yes. Frequently. Yes. That 99.9% germ killing stuff? That means you've left .1% that is now building resistance to it. Pretty soon it only kills 99.8%, then 99.7%... and eventually the sanitizer is a lot less useful than the plain water being used to wash some of those germs away. Better yet, make some of that water you drink hot. It'll wash germs from your mouth and throat down to your stomach where the acids will kill them. They really want to grow in your mouth and respiratory system. Gargle w/ salt water at least 1X/day, preferrably 2X. You just got rid of a bunch more, and without increasing their resistance. While you're at it, make sure you are eating healthy and getting enough sleep and exercise. It will all help keep up your natural resistance. Report
I have a water bottle and if I fill and drink it twice a day, I know I have my 8 glasses in. If I drink more, that is just icing on the low-fat-no-sugar cake! : ) Report
I think I'll drink 2 more glasses!
:-) Report
Another good reason to drink lots of water... Report
Well, I have already had the H1N1 Flu as well as my son - we missed a week of school/work. I have always been like your mom - germaphobic - and with teaching Elementary kiddos - wow! Problem is that I have Urinary Incontience...have many accidents with my water....but try my best to get it down....never close the required amount.

Stay healty - nice blog Report
I always wash my hands after going to the restroom and I always carry some antibacterial soap to use in public in case they are out, which I've come across some times, So between the soap and antibacterial wash my hands stay clean. Report
I sure hope it's true because our office decided just last week to shake hands with as many customers as we can when they come in and those in charge commented that they had antibacterial gel for those of us who balked at this during flu season. I have psoriasis and that gel burns like the dickens so I really don't like to use it. It's good to know that my frequent hand washing may help. Report
Wow! Guess my 378 day drinking 8 cups of water a day streak is keeping me healthy! That's good to know as I float to the next bathroom stop. Report
You know I drink water to lose weight but never thought about it keeping me healthy. Well I always wash my hands after I go. My son says most grown men do not wash their hands after they use the public restroom. What are these people thinking? Report
I have always loved water........ Report
Someone told me this a few weeks ago, and it makes sense. The FIRST thing you should wash when you get into the bathtub or shower? YOUR HANDS!! Even though you are shampooing and washing your face and body, it's always best to start with clean hands! Report
never thought about it this way, but I'll remember this next time I have to GO! Report
I am a nurse, hand washing is PRIME among everyone in Health Care, PLUS the hand gels....when I go to work I am GELLING!!!!...CONSTANTLY...course then I have to be sure to lubricate my hands, as the gel really drys them out. But I am virtually never sick, don't ever take ANY flu shots, swine flu or H1N1 shots....give them to my sister who does not drink fluids, wash their hands, or take all the anitoxidants that I do!!

I TOO am a "germafobe" ever since my Bacteriology class...those pesky germs on fomates....get ya every time...a fomate....SHOPPING CARTS, DOOR NOBS, etc. THINK PEOPLE....everything you touch has alot of germs!

I even GEL at church these days!!!! Sorry guys, but shaking the hands of someone who has done what with them, besides shaking the hands of many many others who...well , won't go there. but you get my drift!

This is really a timely article!!! THANKS! Report
Read most of the the idea of using hand sanitizer once I have left the bathroom. I run into bathrooms that don't have paper towels (just air dryers that take way to long to dry my hands totally). I have also herd of all the germs that lurk on doors, light switches, paper towel machines etc. I now keep a small bottle of sanitizer in my purse. Never use to until the flu hit my house. All four of us in my family got it and no one had started it at the same time. Lost a lot of days of work. Anyway now I wash as well as sanitize after leaving the room. I also think that drinking lots of water may be helping the people who have been doing it for a while because the water helps carry toxins from your body and with those gone your body is better able to fight anything else. Report
Saying that water helps prevent cold and flu specifically because it makes you use the restroom and need to wash your hands more often is a ridiculous stretch.

If you're going to say water is good for keeping you from catching a virus, most of the time should be spent on the one throwaway paragraph you put in about its potential for cleansing the body and improving immune potential. The part about washing your hands in the bathroom more often should be the tangent "oh by the way" paragraph. Report
I love water at any possible form and I flirt with it almost passionately [The number one reason I dislike poverty is the rather omnipresent lack of easy access to CLEAN water]. When in need, I use a packaged mini disinfectant towel, or alcohol in various forms e.g. Vodka, Ouzo, Grappa, Tsipouro, or even 96% Pure Alcohol from the drug store [even though it comes more expensive due to taxation in Greece]. Cologne [or perfume if you prefer] for the worst of the cases... Report
i agree absolutely with this article. I joined SparkPeople last November and haven't had a cold or flu in all that time. I'm convinced the healthy lifestyle, including 8 glasses of water, is the reason. Report
drinking my water and washing my hands definitely think it helps
One Day At A Time Report
Only problem with drinking so much water is that I am up 2-5 times a night. Can't seem to go during the day...only at

I use sanitizer gel a lot. have it at my desk and use it everytime I come back to my desk. One thing that I have notice is that sanitizer gel makes my nails harder. Report
I don't actually wash my hands in a public restroom because of the harsh soap they have but I have environmentally safe hand sanitizer in a packaged mini towel. I do know for a fact that it kills 99.9 % of the germs. I don't spray my home or office with anything like Lysol because of the chemicals in it because they can cause you more harm than good. I also use environmentally safe cleaning products so I haven't had a cold for many years. Report
I drink a lot of water and when I am unable to wash my hands I use that sanitizer gel. Report
Off to refill another glass of water ... Report
I have put this sign on the inside of our stall doors at's just plain gross that people do not properly wash. This is kindergarten stuff! Wash your hands. Don't pick your nose. Keep your fingers out of your mouth. Remember all those things Miss Whoever in kindergarten used to say? Just do it! The alphabet song once through is just the perfect amount of time to do the most good.

Hand sanitizers have been shown repeatedly for almost a decade now to not work (no, they don't kill those 99% of advertised germs on your fact, at least one has been shown to INCREASE the number of bacteria on the skin).

You've learned from Spark People that the "easy fix" doesn't work...apply the same logic to your germ-control protocol. Report
When you are washing your hands sing happy birthday 2 time , this is how long it should take to wash your hands. Report
My daughter had the swine flu over a month ago and I haven't gotten it yet. Since medical experts say that it has been around before, there is some possibility that I've already had it, but I'm just thankful that I haven't been sick. Drinking that much water every day is definitely good for you. Report
thanks, now I will sing happy birthday everytime I wash my hands!
I love water and yes do lots of BR trips.. Report
i've taught my kids to sing the alphabet song while they wash their hands to make sure it is long enough Report
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK Coach Nicole!!! OMG..can't tell you how many times I see professional women at work walk out of the restroom without washing their hands! Ok, so my loverly personality decided to actually say something to one of the women about it (hey, it's too much stuff going around)!! Anyhoo, I always wash my hands for about 30 seconds and I kind of go up my arms too...yes, slight germaphobe here! I also use the paper towel to hold the doors, open the stall, etc. And I used to complain about all the bathroom going, but now since I'm 42 lbs lighter....I now smile as I go to the restroom. In my mind, I feel like I'm shedding fat as I tinkle!!! ;-) Report
One more motivation for getting those 8 cups in! Report
I never thought of it that way! Good advice! Report
Thought-provoking connection to the water drinking and hand washing. Thank you. Report
I have to work really hard at getting in my 8 glasses a day. It is easier in the summer, though. Report
Good info, really great article. Report
Definitely an encouragement, b/c all those pits stops can be really annoying! Report
I think we should all do what we can to prevent spreading illnesses and picking up an unwanted germy...wash our hands, eat healthier, etc. That said, I'm slowly recovering from 2+ weeks of swine flu. I'm an avid hand washer (probably more than I need to), drink my water (more some days than others-a minimum of 4 glasses a day) and can't remember the last time I had the flu. There's no one answer to avoiding illness. Report