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  • Brian Tasch

A Hot Toddy Won't Save You

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

While we move away from the height of this year's flu season (with estimated deaths between 16,000 and 41,000 as of 3/1/2020) and toward a new, fun pandemic with the COVID-19 coronavirus, it seems an appropriate time to remind anyone with cold or flu symptoms to stay home.


Oh yeah, and also:


If you're sick, drinking alcohol, be it hot or cold, will not stave off infection, cure you, or aid in your recovery in any way. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.


Photo of a black plague doctor holding a cocktail


Alcohol will not improve your health


A shot of whiskey will not kill a viral or bacterial infection. Amaro is not actually medicine. Tito's recently released a statement making it clear their vodka is not an effective hand sanitizer because, apparently, that's a thing people think will work.


Sure, there's lime juice in a daiquiri, but that 8 mg of Vitamin C is offset by 2 oz of rum. For comparison: there's 75 mg of Vitamin C in a daiquiri's volume of orange juice. And for heck's sake, a Hot Toddy is ultimately just a warm Old Fashioned wherein the alcohol quickly negates anything “healthy.”


Despite what brand marketing, snake oil salespeople, and bartenders without medical degrees may tell you, there is nothing healthy about the consumption of alcohol when you're sick.


Adding kombucha to booze doesn't make it healthy, mudding fruits or vegetables doesn't make it healthy. Heating it up doesn't make it healthy. Adding vitamins doesn't make it healthy.


Alcohol is poison. Delicious poison, yes, but still poison. It is generally bad for you, and if your immune system is at all compromised, it is definitely bad for you. If you're sick, you need rest, nutrients, and hydration.


Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means it increases your urine production and forces water out of your body, making it that much harder for you to stay hydrated and that much harder for you to recover.


Alcohol in high enough concentrations is indeed used as a disinfectant or sanitizer, but that isn't how it works in the body at any strength. The temporary relief you may feel after a drink or two is not a result of any restorative properties: you're just temporarily numbed. Your throat is no less enflamed; you simply don't feel it.


Whoever continues to perpetuate the notion that drinking alcohol will aid in the strengthening or recovery of your immune system, whether that alcohol comes with lemon and honey or not, shouldn't be allowed behind a bar.


Keep your germs at home


The number of times I've had guests perch up in front of me, blowing their noses into napkins stacked within reach, sniffling and sneezing their way through a request for something whiskey-based to "help fight their cold" is mind-blowing.


If you're sick and blowing your nose at the bar, you're spraying all the tools with germs, which in turn, will go into other guests' drinks. Heck, even if you aren't blowing your nose or sneezing, you're still breathing, which creates a meter wide contamination zone around you. Everything you touch is now contaminated and becomes a point of infection for others to pick up. Your cash is dirtier. Your credit cards are dirtier. The cellphone you breathe into and touch all day, which you place on the bar or hand to a bartender to charge, is dirtier.

Image of the Plague Rat from the cover of The Plague
The Plague Rat

When you go to a bar sick, you're not only risking spreading your illness to the other guests, but you most definitely risk getting the overworked bartender without health care sick as well.


And while many industries provide sick days to employees, the truth of the matter is most bars and restaurants run on such a tight margin and schedule that it's almost impossible to get time off last minute (or ever, depending on the spot). Over the previous three years, I was unable to call off of work even once when sick, though one night, after watching me struggle through service, my GM sent me home after 6 hours and took over in my stead. The rest of the time, I was forced to struggle through 11 hours shifts.


The average person would be disgusted by the number of times they've been served by folks with colds, strep throat, pink eye, etc. I've worked two separate service jobs that more or less refused to give me a single night off after I'd come down with strep throat. Thankfully, I was in a position to tell my bosses to deal with my temporary absence, but I was still pressured to return to work the second I was able to hide my symptoms. I've been forced to work side by side with people with strep throat, with fevers, with colds, with stomach viruses. What's more obnoxious, is these same people will drink throughout their shift, prolonging their recovery and lengthening the exposure time of their ailments to those they work with and serve.


Everybody: stop being gross. Stop being selfish. Stop being willfully ignorant. If you are sick, stay home if at all possible, and if you must be in a bar or restaurant (because you rely on tips to pay your rent), do everyone a favor and cut the booze for a shift or two.


Your body, your coworkers, and everyone else you encounter will thank you for it.


Don't @ me.


Photo credit: Kuma Kun and also my amazing Photoshopping skills

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