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​Competing and practicing while sick

​​​​​​​​​​​When you are feeling sick, you may question whether it’s okay to practice your sport or compete. To sort out your symptoms and help you decide ask yourself: Are my symptoms “above the neck” or “below the neck”?

“Above the neck” symptoms, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and minor sore throat pain, are typical to the common cold caused by viruses called coronaviruses or rhinoviruses. It is OK to participate with these symptoms, although you may want to consider reducing the intensity and length of your practice session. Note that despite these adjustments, practicing may still ​​make you feel worse.

If you take over-the-counter medications for cold symptom relief while exercising, check with your doctor before taking decongestant products containing pseudoephedrine. This stimulant-type medication may pose a health risk because it increases the heart rate when your heart rate is already elevated during exercise.

If you have signs and symptoms "below the neck," such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach, you should discontinue play. You also should stop if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches. What you may have is the flu, caused by viruses known as Influenza A or Influenza B. Exercising or competing with the flu may lead to a worse infection, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Contact your doctor if symptoms worsen or do not get any better.

To help prevent catching a cold or coming down with the flu:

  • Use your body as your guide. It will tell you if you are doing too much. If you are feeling miserable, give your body a break. 
  • Use the break time to focus on good nutrition and drinking large amounts of fluids such as water and electrolyte replacement drinks. 
  • When you start feeling better, gradually work back into your normal routine. Start back at about 50 percent of your normal exercise distance or reduced intensity and allow extra recovery time between workouts.​

 

​​​Share comments or questions on this information email: sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.


 

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