At least in Poland there is an SMS people send to each other that warns one should be constantly drinking water, at least a few gulps every 15 mins to protect oneself against viral infection. According to the SMS chain if the virus has made its way to one's throat it can still be flushed down with water to the stomach, where it will be killed by hydrochloric acid. However, if one does not drink constantly, the virus may instead enter windpipe, which can be very dangerous.

The SMS chain seems widespread:

  • Today I received a phone from my aunt who claimed there were 'new instructions' to protect oneself against coronavirus and urged me to drink water constantly; only after inquiry she admitted she knew this from an SMS chain and not from a medical authority. To back up the SMS chain's accuracy she said she had heard a radio interview with a physician a few years before who had claimed that during an infection one should swallow phlegm rather than spit it out because of hydrochloric acid.
  • My mother works as a teacher. One of her pupils was drinking water non stop during the lesson. When his bottle got empty he left the classroom during the lesson to refill it. Presumably he or his mother had received the SMS chain.

Since the chain reached me from two independent sources I believe it is likely widespread enough to ask about its veracity.

Does drinking water constantly prevent viral infection? Will one avoid infection with coronavirus if one makes sure the virus is flushed down the throat into the stomach within the first 15 minutes of the virus' presence in the throat?

  • Do these texts also happen to mention that drinking too much water can be more dangerous than COVID-19? Do they also recommend that you flush your sinuses and eyes with water too? After all, those are routes of infection for viruses too. The texts are dangerous nonsense but I'll leave the question open so someone can provide that answer properly.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


Such claims about drinking water to prevent COVID-19 also appeared online, but major health organizations do not support them.

Health experts say drinking water every 15 minutes does not prevent coronavirus infection (AFP Fact Check, March 9, 2020)

Multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter shared hundreds of times in the Philippines claim that doctors in Japan advise people to drink water every 15 minutes in order to prevent being infected by the novel coronavirus, COVD-19. The claim is misleading; the World Health Organization (WHO) says drinking water does not prevent novel coronavirus infection; Japan has not issued a health advisory listing drinking water as a prevention method for COVID-19.

The answer by World Health Organization Phillippines on Twitter, Feb 8, 2020:

Q: If drinking water alleviates a sore throat, does this also protect against #2019nCoV infection?

A: While staying hydrated by drinking water is important for overall health, it does not prevent coronavirus infection.

The US Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not mention drinking water as a preventative measure against coronavirus disease (COVID-19). They recommend to wash hands regularly and to not touch the mouth, nose and eyes. They do not say anything about drinking or using mouthwashes.

I can't claim that drinking water doesn't reduce the risk of infection, but this seems unlikely, because the viruses can affect the nose (runny nose), throat (cough) and lower respiratory tract (shortness of breath), so you can't just flush them down the throat.

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Image source: The University of Alabama at Birmingham

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