Can drinking alcohol make coronavirus symptoms worse?

By Rebecca Israel, MS, Charles Li, MD

April 24, 2020

  • The effects of alcohol on bodily functioning are well studied.

  • Alcohol is known to increase your risk of breathing problems.

  • Drinking alcohol could increase your odds of severe breathing problems if infected with COVID-19.

Alcohol & Coronavirus

Could drinking alcohol make your symptoms worse?

Ever since the coronavirus shutdown, alcohol sales have gone through the roof. Families are passing the time by playing drinking games and teachers are catching their students drinking in their zoom classes.

The dangers of excessive drinking are already well established. The WHO says that alcohol can harm every organ in the body, weaken your immune system, alter your thoughts and behaviors, and even cause cancer.

Under certain circumstances, alcohol is also associated with breathing problems.

Can drinking alcohol worsen your ability to breathe?

Yes. In 2006, researchers look at the medical records of 1357 admissions to a Minnesota intensive care unit. They measured the association between excessive alcohol consumption and acute respiratory distress syndrome(ARDS).

Excessive drinking is defined as consuming 2 or more drinks a day, or more than 14 drinks a week.

ARDS occurs in people who are very ill. It causes lung inflammation, shortness of breath, and an inability to breathe on your own. Patients with this syndrome often require mechanical ventilation for oxygen.

Alcohol & ARDSStudy Setup

1357

ICU Admissions

77

Cases of ARDS
Study Parameters
Procedure

EMR Data Reivew

Timing

Full Year - 2006

Location

Two ICUs in Minnesota

This study found a positive association between patient history of alcohol consumption and their risk of ARDS. Previous studies have found similar results between alcohol and breathing-related illnesses.

Along with all the other organs, excessive drinking harms the lungs. Your lungs become progressively worse with how much you drink and how long you’ve been drinking.

Alcohol & ARDSResults

Alcohol & ARDS Risk

Risk

2.9x

1x

Heavy drinking nearly triples your risk of ARDS compared to non-heavy drinkers.

Notes:

Excessive alcohol consumption defined as 14+ drinks a week or 2+ a day.

Adjusted for risk factors, gender, and smoking.

Does coronavirus lead to breathing problems?

Yes. According to the CDC, a few of the most common symptoms reported by coronavirus patients include coughing, shortness of breath, and sore throat.

Common COVID-19 Symptoms USA

Data was obtained from 146,510 adults across the United States.

80%
80% of COVID-19 patients had a cough.

43%
43% had shortness of breath.

35%
35% had a sore throat.

In pandemic reports across the globe, one of the most common causes for critical care and death is serious breathing issues.

In Wuhan, China, researchers tracked the clinical outcomes of 138 COVID-19 confirmed patients in January of this year. Out of all the patients hospitalized, 16% developed ARDS.

Strikingly, 61% of patients who required critical care had ARDS and were unable to breathe on their own. This data shows us that ARDS was the most common reason for patients to be taken to the intensive care unit for life-saving treatment.

COVID-19 & ARDS Results

61%
61% of patients were transferred to the ICU due to ARDS complications.
Study Parameters
Patients

138 COVID-19 Patients

Location

Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan, China

Timing

January 1-28, 2020

Procedure

Retrospective review of clinical outcomes.

It is important to recognize that this study is small and conducted early on in the pandemic. Our knowledge of coronavirus changes every day, and so do the numbers. Regardless, this report was necessary to inform the world that coronavirus can lead to ARDS and other serious breathing problems.

If you or someone you know has been infected by a coronavirus, they most likely have experienced some degree of breathing issues. The worst cases of coronavirus require hospitalization or critical care, usually because the patient has trouble breathing.

It is essential to be open and honest with your doctor about your drinking habits and consider how excessive drinking can influence your ability to safely recover from coronavirus or other respiratory infections.

Explore More
thumbnail for hydroxychloroquine-survival
thumbnail for coronavirus-liver
thumbnail for pro-hydroxychloroquine
thumbnail for coronavirus-kawasaki
thumbnail for coronavirus-taste
thumbnail for coronavirus-smell
thumbnail for autism-stemcell-safety
thumbnail for fish-dementia
thumbnail for church-alcoholism
thumbnail for virus-water
thumbnail for reading-dementiaprevention
thumbnail for covid19-buildingair
thumbnail for vinegar-virus
thumbnail for covid19-cats
thumbnail for virus-fruit
thumbnail for alcohol-ards
thumbnail for covid19-children
thumbnail for epidemic-schoolclosure
thumbnail for handwash-dry
thumbnail for handwash-soap
thumbnail for handwash-time
thumbnail for covid19-shoes
thumbnail for handwash-sanitizer
thumbnail for covid19-plasma
thumbnail for n95mask-study
thumbnail for N95-fs
thumbnail for covid19-steel
thumbnail for covid19-plastic
thumbnail for coronavirus-cardboard
thumbnail for coronavirus-facts
thumbnail for 5-liver-functions
thumbnail for politics-stress-health
thumbnail for nature-psych-children
thumbnail for stress-dementia-alzheimer
thumbnail for vegan-protein-health
thumbnail for quit-smoking-heartdisease