Starve a Fever? is it The Right Thing to Do?

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Feed a Cold; Starve a Fever.  It is likely that you’ve heard this old saying. But is it right?  Is this good solid advice or justold “sage wisdom” that is absolutely wrong by current scientific standards, like leeching.  Let’s study this old common cold myth and see if “feed a cold starve, starve a fever “really works.

Which way is it?

The first question is about the statement itself.  Some people swear it is, “Starve a fever, feed a cold” while others will go with “feed a cold, starve a fever”.  No one knows exactly how this saying came about.  It was first used in 1574 I dictionary writer John Withals.  This common cold myth can definitely be said to be correctly phrased as, “feed a cold, starve a fever.”

Feed a Cold

The idea behind feeding a cold the simple.  The “ancient wisdom” is that since the body is cold consuming food, particularly hot food and warm drinks, will “warm up” the body and therefore fight the cold.  While warm foods do not necessarily do this, few people will argue that feeding a cold is bad.  Keeping a fluid levels and having enough nutrients and vitamins can be a huge benefit in fighting off a cold.  Eating for the sake of eating doesn’t help a cold but the effects from these nutrients and vitamins certainly do help.

Starve a Fever

The idea behind starving a fever is the opposite of feeding a cold.  The ancient wisdom holds that since the body is hot during a fever, the extra calories will make your body run hotter, specifically if warm food or hot drink is consumed.  Therefore according to sage wisdom, starving a fever is the way to go.  While feeding a cold is generally considered a good thing by almost anyone you ask, starving a fever is far more controversial.  Even with the advances of science that we have more than 450 years after the original phrase was made, there are still experts they can come down on either side of this issue.


There have been scientific studies saying that starving a fever actually does have positive benefits.  There have even been quasi-scientific anecdotal studies showing the same thing.  Yet on the other hand there have also been many scientists and doctors that will save exact opposite that starving a fever either has no effect whatsoever or it is exactly opposite of the proper way.  That a fever should be fed too, like this article from DukeHealth

Practical advice: 

Whichever side of the, “Feed a cold and starve a fever ” debate you believe, there is practical advice that is generally universally agreed-upon.  Washing hands thoroughly and perhaps even using antibacterial soap is one of the best ways to help get your body healthy when you’re sick.  Drinking lots of fluids regardless of cold or fever will help flush out your system and also help you get well faster.  It is also important to get your Vitamin-C, antioxidents, minerals and nutrients.  Regardless of cold or fever, orange juice, healthy broth, herbal teas and things of that sort are great for the patient regardless of whether it is a cold or fever they are exhibiting.  After all, it is not the, “eating” that is really important, what is important is that they get all those needed nutrients and vitamins to get their immune system fully functioning to fight off the fever and/or the cold.


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