COVID-19 And Alcohol

What is COVID-19?

The first thing to know about COVID-19 is that it is part of a wide variety of viruses, more commonly called Coronaviruses, that infect the respiratory system. COVID-19 is a new mutation of the SARS-CoV-2, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, and the first appearance of this illness was reported in December 2019. 

Symptoms of COVID-19

It is believed that most of the world's population has been infected with COVID-19 at least once in the past three years, and for this reason, the symptoms that the illness brings up are known by everyone. The common symptoms of COVID-19 are the following: 

  • cough
  • fever or chills
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • muscle or body aches
  • sore throat
  • loss of taste or smell
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • new fatigue
  • nausea or vomiting
  • congestion or runny nose

In some cases, people infected with COVID-19 experienced all the symptoms above (symptomatic), while in other cases people did not have any symptoms at all while being infected (asymptomatic), and other cases had only a few symptoms. In any of these cases, it is best to self-isolate to recover and avoid spreading the virus.1 

Alcohol and the spread of COVID-19

Despite the previous years of the lockdown being finally over and that the world is trying to restore from the pandemic, COVID-19 could still be considered a threat, especially with the approach of the winter. Moreover, with the businesses back to running and no restrictions required, the consumption of alcohol could potentially represent a risk in the spread of the virus. According to a study done in 2021, alcohol caused individuals to draw significantly closer to an unfamiliar interaction partner as time passed and intoxication levels increased. The results of this study suggest that alcohol might act to overcome the natural caution that often characterizes novel social spaces and promote proximity seeking with a stranger. This means that alcohol can make us rash and incautious when coming to respecting restrictions such as social distancing, face masks and the use of hand sanitizer, for the simple fact that it inhibits the capacity of judgement and alters the behaviour and brain perceptions.2

Consuming alcohol will not kill the virus

During the pandemic, it was primarily believed that drinking alcohol could prevent the infection of the virus. This idea appeared to be misled by the concept of hand sanitizer, which contains a certain amount of alcohol and is consequently best to kill the germs on the skin. However, if this can be an effective disinfectant, the same cannot be said about alcoholic beverages. Drinking alcohol, or spraying it all over the body, will not prevent infection by the virus, but, more likely, will only cause high-risk health problems.3

Avoid alcohol when you’re ill

Sickness and viruses tend to weaken the body and the immune system. For this reason, the consumption of alcohol should be avoided as this could have significant side effects on the immune system, which can find it challenging to fight infections while alcohol is circulating through the body, and consequently, it could be harder to recover.4 More specifically, alcohol disrupts the functions of the lungs, which, if infected with COVID-19 would already be marked with shortness of breath and can worsen the situation. Exhalation of alcohol is the primary route of lung excretion, diminished removal of alcohol from the lungs of a COVID-19-infected individual could potentially result in increased exposure to direct alcohol impairment of lung innate defences or elevated production of alcohol metabolites in lung injury.5 Therefore, avoiding alcohol would be ideal while being sick as the body needs time to recover from infections, dedicating the energy only to work on possible medications, without the obstacles, any other risks, and health damages that alcohol could present.4,5 

When should you see a doctor?

If experiencing any of the symptoms above such as coughing, low energy, fatigue, sneezing, muscle and body aches, and/or shortness of breath, it would be recommended to get in touch with a doctor. 


This article has reviewed the common definition of COVID-19, its symptoms and particularly how alcohol can be dangerous during sickness for the infected individual and the spread to others. Despite many beliefs that alcohol is a disinfectant for the human body, after a deep examination through a variety of reliable sources, it appears to be a misconception that can cause serious damage and pose a health risk. People should now be aware of the fact that alcohol is not recommended to prevent the spread of the virus; it does not protect from being infected with the virus; it does not kill the germs within the body, and it should be avoided as it slows down the process of recovery of sick individuals. It is important to get in touch with a doctor if experiencing any of the symptoms indicated above.


  1. What is coronavirus? [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 17]. Available from: 
  2. Gurrieri L, Fairbairn CE, Sayette MA, Bosch N. Alcohol narrows physical distance between strangers. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA [Internet]. 2021 May 18 [cited 2022 Nov 17];118(20):e2101937118. Available from: 
  3. Seaver DV, M.S., RD. Does alcohol kill the coronavirus? [Internet]. EatingWell. [cited 2022 Nov 17]. Available from: 
  4. Should you drink alcohol when you have a cold? [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 17]. Available from: 
  5. Bailey KL, Samuelson DR, Wyatt TA. Alcohol use disorder: A pre-existing condition for COVID-19? Alcohol [Internet]. 2021 Feb [cited 2022 Nov 17];90:11–7. Available from: 

Silvia Battaglia

Tourism and Travel Services Management Student, Anglia Ruskin University, England

I'm a passionate reader and writer, my best achievement is the first draft of my own book. I started writing when I was really young.
Experienced medical writer. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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