According to lore, drinking alcohol can be beneficial for treatment / prevention of infectious diseases

Here are a few notability links:

  • J. London, The Heathen, 1909

    The second day a man died, an Easter Islander, one of the best divers that season in the lagoon. Smallpox, that is what it was, though how smallpox could come on board when there had been no known cases ashore when we left Rangiroa is beyond me. There it was, though, smallpox, a man dead, and three others down on their backs. There was nothing to be done. We could not segregate the sick, nor could we care for them. We were packed like sardines. There was nothing to do but die--that is, there was nothing to do after the night that followed the first death. (…) That day there were two deaths; the following day three; then it jumped to eight. (…) The German, the two Americans, and myself bought up all the Scotch whisky and proceeded to drink. The theory was beautiful--namely, if we kept ourselves soaked in alcohol, every smallpox germ that came into contact with us would immediately be scorched to a cinder. And the theory worked, though I must confess that neither Captain Oudouse nor Ah Choon was attacked by the disease either. The Frenchman did not drink at all, while Ah Choon restricted himself to one drink daily.

  • Mercola.com

    A 1993 study by Carnegie Mellon researchers found that moderate drinkers had increased resistance to colds. A second study conducted in 2002 and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology also found protective effects of alcohol.

  • Vinepair

    Whiskey is a great decongestant — the alcohol dilates the blood vessels, making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection — and, combined with the herbal tea, squeeze of honey, lemon, and the warm steam emanating from the drink, you have the perfect concoction for helping to clear up your cold symptoms. And by the time you finish the drink, you won’t only be breathing a bit easier, but the alcohol will also start working its magic in the sleep department, making you just groggy enough so you can get some much needed shuteye.

  • Huffington Post

    And the whiskey helps with sniffle issues, too. “The alcohol dilates blood vessels a little bit, and that makes it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection,” Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.

Some doctors rebuff this claim:

  • Contac

    This common myth is based on the perception that alcohol has a sterilizing effect on a cold or flu virus. However, when alcohol enters the body, it is absorbed through the stomach and gastrointestinal tract,rather than the upper respiratory tract, where viruses reside. Because it does not come in direct contact with the virus, there is little chance that any consumed alcohol can effectively combat a cold or flu.

  • Science Daily

    Alcohol can worsen the effects of disease. New research shows that alcohol modulates the anti-viral and inflammatory functions of monocytes. Prolonged alcohol consumption has a double negative effect of reducing the anti-viral effect of Type 1 interferon (IFN) whilst increasing inflammation via the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF±. Consequently this may impair host response to single-stranded virus infection like hepatitis C.

  • New Scientist

    Too much alcohol dulls more than your wits. It also weakens your immune system and could make you much more vulnerable to viruses, including HIV.

  • Others claim that drinking in moderation can be beneficial or take a more vague stance: DailyMail / Mercola.com / Science Friday / link 4

Can ingested alcohol be beneficial for infection treatment or prevention?

  • 3
    It probably wouldn't hurt to clarify you are looking for "ingested alcohol" or something similar, since ethanol is a well-known anti-septic used in hand sanitizer and medical wipes, but these applications are obviously topical and at higher concentrations that a person could get their BAC to if they wanted to continue living.
    – Jimmy M.
    Mar 31 '17 at 15:45
  • @JimmyM., question edited, thanks for the tip.
    – gaazkam
    Mar 31 '17 at 15:47
  • 2
    Smallpox is caused by a virus, not a "germ", "bacteria", or "vermin"...
    – DJohnM
    Mar 31 '17 at 16:00
  • 2
    Smallpox is viral and transmits via contact with infected droplets.
    – fredsbend
    Mar 31 '17 at 16:01
  • 1
    This question suffers from many of the problems described here. Some people seem to be talking about being a heavy drinker first, and then encountering a virus. Some people seem to be talking about having a single hot toddy as an analgesic. Some people seem to be talking about taking a heavy dose of alcohol to cure an infection. Very different claims.
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 1 '17 at 3:16

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