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Hot or cold?

Boiled and filtered water is the best for everyone, especially babies. PHOTO: AFP  

Summer is upon us. The soaring temperature leaves our throats parched. For some of us, there is nothing like a glass of ice water to slake our thirst. Be it summer or winter, what kind of water should we drink — chilled water, warm water, hot water or water at room temperature?

Suresh Sridharan, Dental Surgeon and Clinical Director, Dr Smilez Health Care, says, “Water at room temperature is best. This is because the temperature in the mouth and the water varies. If the water is very cool or very hot, it tends to cause a small galvanic current which leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling or sensitive teeth. This is more so in the case of older patients whose dental enamel has suffered a lot of wear and tear and those with cavities. Sipping piping hot coffee or other beverages may not damage the teeth or gums but can cause thermal burning of the tongue. Extremely cold substances tend to trigger the nerves in the soft palate (the back part of our upper jaw) and this leads to “ice cream headaches” or migraine attacks. As the ear, nose and throat are inter-related, sometimes, an ice cream can trigger an attack of pharyngitis where the upper part of our throat gets infected leading to a sore throat accompanied by ear ache. This is usually relieved by gargling with warm, saline water. Drinking a glass of water at room temperature after having an ice cream is definitely a good idea to avoid dental and throat problems.”

Maintaining temperature

Ravindran Kumeran, consultant gastroenterologist, says, “As we are warm-blooded, we need to maintain our body temperature within a narrow range at all times. External factors such as the environment and food have an impact on body temperature. Body heat is controlled by two main organs — the skin (body surface) and the lungs. We need to talk about the temperature of drinking water in this context. There is no stipulated water temperature that is ideal. In extreme climate, the temperature of liquids we drink (cold liquids during summer or hot liquids during winter) helps maintain ideal body temperature.”

According to Babu Manohar, Senior Consultant ENT Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, “In tropical countries, we drink chilled water to keep cool just as people drink plenty of hot tea in cold countries to keep warm. The right temperature of water is largely an individual preference. Water at room temperature does not confer any advantage. An individual can continue with whatever he is comfortable with except when he or she has a sore throat. I would then advise gargling with warm or hot water with or without salt because it is soothing.”

However, explaining how very cold water or hot water can affect the ear, nose or throat, Dr. Manohar points out, “Very cold water tends to alter the bacterial flora in the oral cavity — the bacteria surviving in the mouth — and sets up an environment conducive for the bacteria to gain an upper hand and infect the person. When an individual says he has ear ache or sore throat after a visit to the pub or ice cream parlour, it doesn't mean much except that he has acquired the infection either in that place or it is purely coincidental. Whether an individual contracts an infection or not depends on his/her immunity at that point of time. With regard to very hot water, nobody should try it as it will scald the mouth and throat.”

Digestive aid

Which aids digestion — warm water or hot water? While Dr. Kumeran says there is no conclusive data regarding temperature of water aiding digestion, Dr. Sridharan feels, “it is good to drink warm water as it acts as a mild laxative and helps promote intestinal motility.”

As for having water during meals, Dr. Kumeran says drinking water during meals is a good way to limit the amount of food intake and hence should be part of any diet.

What kind of water is good for babies, children and the elderly?

Says Dr. Sridharan, “Boiled and filtered water is the best for everyone, especially babies. Bottled water is suspect with regard to purity. Also newer technologies such as the use of UV to kill germs are good provided the water is drunk immediately after being treated.”

On a note of caution, Dr. Manohar says, “For babies, the elderly and the sick, I would prescribe water that has been boiled and allowed to cool to room temperature. It is not advisable to cool boiled water with water that is cold. This defeats the very purpose of boiling water which is to kill the bacteria.”

Dr. Kumeran concludes, “With regard to infants and children, the surface area of their skin is greater than their body size. Thus they tend to lose heat sooner than adults in adverse conditions. Therefore the temperature of liquids they drink needs to be carefully controlled.”

Quench your thirst

Piping hot water can burn the tongue.

Icy cold water can trigger toothache, even migraine.

Water at room temperature is best for the body.

It's best for infants, the elderly and the sick to drink boiled and cooled water.

Mineral water is not always pure.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 11:54:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Hot-or-cold/article16364647.ece

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