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Can drinking alcohol prevent or cure COVID-19?

This article was published on
April 21, 2021

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No, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure COVID-19. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended to disinfect hands and surfaces, but drinking or ingesting alcohol is in no way recommended. In fact, alcohol consumption could worsen COVID-19 symptoms and could weaken your body's ability to fight the virus, if you have lowered immunity. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a risk factor for many diseases, and alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, if at all. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that drinking alcohol will not protect against infection or illness from COVID-19. In fact, alcohol consumption can reduce the immune system's ability to fight infection and increase the chance of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, alcohol consumption has other negative health consequences (ex. motor and cognitive impairments, mental health impacts, violence, pregnancy impacts, carcinogenic exposure, associations with several other diseases). In response to rising rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol being one of the most widely abused substances in the world, the WHO has advised that "people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic."

No, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure COVID-19. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended to disinfect hands and surfaces, but drinking or ingesting alcohol is in no way recommended. In fact, alcohol consumption could worsen COVID-19 symptoms and could weaken your body's ability to fight the virus, if you have lowered immunity. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a risk factor for many diseases, and alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, if at all. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that drinking alcohol will not protect against infection or illness from COVID-19. In fact, alcohol consumption can reduce the immune system's ability to fight infection and increase the chance of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, alcohol consumption has other negative health consequences (ex. motor and cognitive impairments, mental health impacts, violence, pregnancy impacts, carcinogenic exposure, associations with several other diseases). In response to rising rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol being one of the most widely abused substances in the world, the WHO has advised that "people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic."

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What our experts say

No, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure COVID-19. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended to disinfect hands and surfaces, but drinking or ingesting alcohol is in no way recommended. In fact, alcohol consumption could worsen COVID-19 symptoms and could weaken your body's ability to fight the virus, if you have lowered immunity. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a risk factor for many diseases, and alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, if at all.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that drinking alcohol will not protect against infection or illness from COVID-19. In fact, alcohol consumption can reduce the immune system's ability to fight infection and increase the chance of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, alcohol consumption has other negative health consequences (ex. motor and cognitive impairments, mental health impacts, violence, pregnancy impacts, carcinogenic exposure, associations with several other diseases). In response to rising rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol being one of the most widely abused substances in the world, the WHO has advised that "people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Context and background

There are rumors circulating that drinking alcohol can prevent or treat COVID-19. This might be related to how alcohol (with concentration levels above 60-70%) is being used as a disinfectant for hands and surfaces, but it is important to note that drinking alcohol does not destroy the novel coronavirus within your body.

While alcoholic beverages typically contain ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol), media reports suggest that some alcoholic beverages have been illegally adulterated with toxic substances that smell similar, causing additional deaths during the pandemic in some countries. There are also other alcoholic products, such as hand sanitizers, that are not meant for human consumption. Drinking other forms of alcohol, such as methyl alcohol (also known as methanol) in chemical disinfectants, can cause blindness, kidney disease, or death even in small quantities.

Resources

  1. Alcohol and COVID-19: What You Need to Know (WHO)
  2. Alcohol does not protect against COVID-19; Access should be restricted during lockdown (WHO)
  3. Alcohol and the Immune System (Alcohol Research: Current Reviews)

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