Electrolyte Water in Short Supply After China Adjusts COVID Policies

With the adjustment of COVID-19 prevention and control policies in many cities in China, in addition to a wave of panic buying of cold medicines, some food products have become unexpectedly popular recently, such as canned yellow peaches and electrolyte water. Reports emerged that “electrolyte water” and related beverage products on Chinese e-commerce platforms were in short supply, with some brands out of stock.

One prominent electrolyte water product in China is from Genki Forest, a leading Chinese beverage enterprise. According to the company’s statistics, the latest weekly sales volume of Alienergy Eletrolyte Drink on domestic e-commerce platforms increased by 1327% month-on-month, and the weekly sales volume on food delivery platforms increased by 1000% month-on-month. From December 7 to December 8, the sales of Alienergy Eletrolyte Drink on food delivery platforms soared by 2000%.

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Electrolyte water products featuring the tag “a healthy way of water replenishment” gained popularity overnight, which was mainly related to a screenshot of COVID-19 prevention and treatment plan of released by Hunan Province (the second edition in 2022). The column of the treatment plan in the screenshot reads “It is best to supplement with electrolyte water” – but this chart was not found on any official platforms.

However, “paying attention to the balance between water and electrolytes” or “supplementing drinking water containing a certain amount of electrolytes” is indeed mentioned in the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment plan (fourth, sixth, eight trial editions) issued by China’s Health Commission and “A Guideline for Public Prevention of COVID-19: Temporary Guidelines for Dietary Nutrition” issued by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Electrolytes refer to inorganic salts, proteins and other substances in the form of ions in body fluids, mainly including potassium ions, sodium ions, chloride ions, calcium ions, magnesium ions and others. When people catch a cold, the human body will fight against viruses by developing a fever. This process will cause a large amount of water loss in the body, taking away electrolyte components such as sodium ions and potassium ions. If only a large amount of pure water is supplemented, these electrolyte elements in the body will be diluted, resulting in dizziness and fatigue. At this time, sufficient electrolytes will be needed to help relieve cold symptoms.

Is it necessary to store electrolyte water? Regarding this question, Zhong Kai, director of China Food Information Center, said in an interview that electrolyte water is really needed in some cases, but it is not necessary. He pointed out that when symptoms such as fever appear, if people can eat normally, they don’t need to supplement electrolytes. If they don’t eat for a day and sweat or have severe diarrhea and vomiting, they should consider electrolyte supplementation.

He suggested that eating fruits, drinking porridge, using medical rehydration salts or electrolyte drinks are all ways to supplement the electrolytes lost by the human body. “Although there is no limit on the dosage of electrolyte drinks, they cannot be solely regarded as a replacement of water.”

Man Ning, director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Wuhan Yaxin General Hospital, said that supplementing a large amount of electrolyte water is not applicable to everyone. For some groups, such as hypertensive patients, elderly people with cardiac insufficiency, people with kidney failure, etc., drinking a lot of water will increase the load of internal volume circulation, resulting in aggravation of heart failure, edema and other conditions.