of the Month
Healthy) New Year!! I'm hoping that this article is not needed by
many of you, but since the cold and flu season is upon us, I thought
it would be wise to put the info out just in case. The article came
from one of my favorite publications, THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTS MEDICINE
and gives some guidelines for exercisers who happen to get sick.
One point I think worth mentioning would be to drink plenty of water.
Whether you workout or not, your probably dehydrated and water is
the most important nutrient, especially when your sick. A good rule
of thumb is to drink 10 - 12, 8 oz glasses a day. Remember, lots
of fruits, vegetables, soups, milk, sports drinks and juices, since
they are mainly water, can be used to help get those hydration levels
up. Best of Health in "97". RM
Not--When You Are Sick
A. Primos, Jr, MD with James R. Wappes
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 24 - NO. 1 - JANUARY 96
You're not feeling
great. You have a sore throat, stuffy head, and runny nose. But
you feel like you could maybe log a few road miles. Should you?
a low-key exerciser or a competitive athlete, knowing when to work
out if you don't feel well can be difficult. When you have an infection
such as a cold, "stomach flu," or contagious skin condition,
you (and, often, your doctor) need to decide how exercise might
affect your health, your performance, and the health of others.
Of course, it's also good to avoid infection in the first place.
You Play On?
The first question
to ask your infected body is if you need to push it. When your body
is fighting an infection, your performance and fitness benefits
will likely be less than optimal, so why bother? Missing a few days
of training is not the end of the world-and it may even be a better
option. And if you're a competitive athlete, taking yourself out
may be the best thing for the team.
physical activity helps you feel better. For example, working out
can sometimes temporarily clear a stuffed-up head when you have
So if you think
exercise might help, or if you can't bear to miss a workout, do
a "neck check" of your symptoms(1). If your symptoms are
located "above the neck"--a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing,
or a sore throat, for example-then exercise is probably safe. But
start at half speed. If you feel better after 10 minutes, you can
increase your speed and finish the workout or game. If you feel
miserable, though, stop.
On the other
hand, your "neck check" may reveal "below-the-neck"
symptoms. Avoid intense physical activity if you have any of these
symptoms: muscle aches, hacking cough, fever of 100°F or higher,
chills, diarrhea, or vomiting. Exercising when you have below-the-neck
symptoms may mean, at best, that you'll feel weak and dehydrated.
Worse, you may risk such dangerous conditions as heatstroke (dangerously
high body temperature) and heart failure.
You can resume
exercising when "below-the-neck" symptoms subside. However,
when recovering from an illness that prevented you from working
out, it's important to ease back into activity gradually. A good
rule of thumb is to exercise for 2 days at a lower-than-normal intensity
for each day you were sick.
If you're on
a team, an additional concern is whether you will infect others.
And if you're healthy, you may wonder about someone else infecting
you. For common illnesses like the cold, practice commonsense hygiene
like washing your hands frequently and directing coughs and sneezes
away from others.
though, are readily spread in sports and require athletes to be
sidelined while they are contagious. Two such conditions are measles
and herpes simplex (a virus that often causes cold sores or blisters
and is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, as in wrestling). If
you may have such an infection, see a doctor for treatment and information
about when to resume sports.
can also spread readily. So in addition to regular hygiene, athletes
need to refrain from sharing water bottles and towels. Infections
have been known to pass to other athletes via both routes.
You should also
be properly immunized against diseases such as measles, mumps, tetanus,
and rubella. Also, some athletes may benefit from an influenza vaccine.
Ask your doctor what immunizations you need.
Cold, Common Sense
As is often
true, deciding to exercise when you are sick largely involves common
sense. Taking precautions about spreading infection and listening
to your body can go a long way in getting you back into action without
Infection, immunity, and exercise. Phys Sportsmed 1993;21(1):125-135
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical
advice. If you have concerns about your health, consult a physician.
Dr Primos practices
primary care sports medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is
a charter member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.
article is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice
and is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health-care
professionals. Consult your physician before beginning or making
changes in your diet, supplements or exercise program, for diagnosis
and treatment of illness and injuries, and for advice regarding
medications. Thanks. RM