Coronavirus myth busted: Drinking vodka, or any other alcohol, does not prevent coronavirus

Evidence suggests that alcohol actually weakens the ability of your immune system to fight against viral infections and makes you prone to pneumonia.

Myupchar March 16, 2020 13:38:18 IST
content powered by
Coronavirus myth busted: Drinking vodka, or any other alcohol, does not prevent coronavirus

Recently, a letterhead from a famous US Hospital, St Luke’s, was seen circulating on some social media sites claiming that drinking alcohol, especially vodka, can help reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. The letter was dated March 7, 2020. 

On March 11, St. Luke’s put up a post on their Facebook page explaining how the news is fake and they did not release any information or letter like that. “False reports are circulating that say drinking alcohol can reduce the risk of COVID-19. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Saint Luke’s follows CDC guidance,” the post read.

Neither the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USA, nor the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said anything about the link between alcohol consumption and prevention of COVID-19. In fact, evidence suggests that alcohol actually weakens the ability of your immune system to fight against viral infections and makes you prone to pneumonia.

Coronavirus myth busted Drinking vodka or any other alcohol does not prevent coronavirus

Representational image. Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Here is what happens in your body when you drink alcohol.

The journey of alcohol through your system

As soon as the alcohol reaches your stomach, about 20% of it is absorbed into your bloodstream - more if you drink on an empty stomach. The rest of the alcohol gets absorbed from the small intestine, which has a much larger surface area for absorption. 

Your liver metabolises all the alcohol in your body through two different enzymes - alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase. The first enzyme breaks down alcohol into an organic compound called acetaldehyde and then the aldehyde dehydrogenase further breaks down acetaldehyde into acetate. Finally, the acetate gets converted to water and carbon dioxide. Both of which are excreted out of the body.

However, the speed at which your body can process alcohol depends on how much alcohol you have had. Your liver can only process one drink in an hour. If you binge drink, all the extra alcohol will keep on accumulating in your body and make you drunk. 

Alcohol and your immunity

Studies show that if chronic drinking or acute binge drinking of vodka (40% ethanol) causes an increase in the number of bacteria in your body. 

Alcohol can also impair the immune responses in your respiratory pathways, which increases your risk of getting respiratory infections. It reduces the number of white blood cells in your lungs, depletes zinc (a mineral which impacts the activity of macrophages, the white blood cells that fight viral infections amongst others), and increases the risk of inflammation. This is why most alcoholics are prone to viral infections like flu and cytomegalovirus infection (mononucleosis). 

The CDC only recommends topical use of alcohol, in the form of hand sanitizers, to prevent COVID-19, and that too when your hands are otherwise free of dirt. Otherwise, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and clean water. 

For more tips, read our article on Coronavirus

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

Updated Date:

also read

India logs 17,336 new COVID-19 cases in last 24 hours, up 30% from yesterday; positivity rate jumps to 4.32%
India

India logs 17,336 new COVID-19 cases in last 24 hours, up 30% from yesterday; positivity rate jumps to 4.32%

Delhi and Maharashtra reported the maximum number of COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours. As many as 13 people died of COVID-19, increasing the cumulative casualty due to the virus in the country to 5,24,954

Joe Biden's chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci tests positive for COVID-19
World

Joe Biden's chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci tests positive for COVID-19

The 81-year-old Fauci, who is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots, was experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms. He tested positive on a rapid antigen test

At 1,118, Delhi records 82 % rise in daily Covid-19 cases
Health

At 1,118, Delhi records 82 % rise in daily Covid-19 cases

Delhi on Monday reported 614 new COVID-19 cases and zero death due to the disease, while the positivity rate stood at 7.06 per cent