Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Coping With Colds

Coping With Colds
By Paul Davies & Dr R Budgett October 98
Common autumn and winter illnesses can generally be split into two groups; those that only affect the lining of the nose and throat (colds and upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs)), and more serious infections where the virus or bacteria cause more widespread symptoms. The symptoms for colds and URTIs are generally localised to above the neck and include dry sore throat, nasal congestion and/or runny nose, sneezing and slightly swollen glands. If, in addition to the above symptoms, there is a significant rise in resting heart rate (greater than 20%), significantly swollen glands, cough, general aches, fever and fatigue then a more serious infection is likely to be present.

For colds and URTIs localised to above the neck, light exercise will help to speed recovery. This should be performed at a very low intensity (lower than UT2) for between five and seven days, until the symptoms have disappeared. It is important that only light exercise is performed at this time. This could take the form of cross-training such as walking or very light cycling. If hard exercise is performed whilst symptoms are still present, there is a significant risk of delayed recovery and of secondary infection such as sinusitis or bronchitis. If the symptoms are no longer present following 5-7 days of easy exercise, then training can be gradually increased over a period of three days, with normal training being resumed between the eighth and tenth day.

In the presence of symptoms below the neck that suggest a more severe and widespread infection, a medical opinion should be sought and complete rest for between three and seven days must be taken. Most of these infections are caused by viruses and will not benefit from antibiotics, but occasionally there is a secondary bacterial infection and antibiotics may be given. When symptoms have reduced, such that aches, fever, fatigue and productive cough are no longer present, light exercise can be performed. This should be done for a further five to seven days, until all symptoms have disappeared. This can then be followed by an escalation of training up to normal levels over three days. A cough may persist for up to three weeks after a chest infection and very intensive exercise should be avoided until this resolves.

It is important to note that during the early stages of any infection, extra rest and regeneration strategies, as well as light exercise will help to speed recovery. This means drinking large volumes of fluid (> 40 ml of fluid per kilogram of bodyweight per day), eating a healthy diet, using relaxation techniques and increasing ‘lifestyle rest’ to help maximise recovery. Taking paracetamol or aspirin will help to alleviate symptoms but unfortunately will not speed recovery. You are most infectious at the start of a cold, so to avoid spreading the illness it may be prudent to avoid other members of the team during this time.

Friman G., Ilback N. G. (1992) Exercise and infection: interaction, risks and benefits. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2. 177-189.

Young M. (1998) Should I train when I have a cold and if not when can I return ? Br J Sports Med. 32. 84.

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