Grappling With The Common Cold
It’s that time of year again, summer is dead like the leaves on the ground and suddenly a disease pandemic appears to be spreading across social media. The kids have it, your team mates have it and who knows you might get it! I am of course talking about the common cold.
“A cold is basically an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract caused by a viral infection. The common cold is probably the most frequently occurring illness in humans worldwide. More than 200 different viruses cause colds, and rhinoviruses and coronaviruses are the culprits 25-60 percent of the time. Rhinovirus infections often occur during the fall and spring seasons, while the coronavirus is more common during the winter.” –ACSM
Contrary to common belief damp, drafts and cold weather does not increase your risk of infection. What does, however is contact with other people, particularly wet nasal discharge from the infected. Hence a lot of colds are brought home by snotty children. The worst colds in particular are spread by coughing and sneezing, because virus count per volume is higher. In athletes we see phenomena called the ‘tournament cold’ where lots of people travel to a small enclosed space with lots of personal contact especially in martial sports. This is a perfect environment for a transmissible disease like the common cold to spread.
Should I train?
The burning question! Most athletes especially martial athletes hate time off from training with a passion and will often try to train even when sick. Mild-to-moderate exercise when sick with the common cold does not appear to be harmful. It does go without saying that BJJ or MMA training should only be resumed once symptoms have disappeared unless you want to upset your team mates and risk them catching what you have got.
More serious colds bring out symptoms like fever, tiredness and muscle aches. In this case we follow a simple rule if the symptoms are from the neck up moderate training is acceptable but if from the neck down your probably better off staying in bed or on the sofa. Lifting weights is usually fine also, but be polite and wipe down any equipment you use and carry a tissue to stifle sneezing when you train. If you have Flu which is more serious training should be suspended and you do have flu and not ‘man-flu’ your desire to train will be seriously diminished.
So to be clear, moderate exercise is fine. But BJJ or MMA is out of the question due to communicability of cold viruses.
How Can I Stave off and Treat Common Cold?
Regular and moderate exercise lowers the risk for respiratory infections so by already training you are doing the right thing! Immune function is linked to stress levels, sleep, diet and age, you need to do what you can to keep it in the best shape possible. Immune function is suppressed during periods of very low caloric intake and quick weight reduction so fighters cutting weight for competitions have to especially wary.
For cold to propagate firstly enough virus has to enter the body before the immune system crushes it in the first instance. If enough virus does get in to multiply the body takes 3-4 days to ready an immune response. Most colds last for around 7 days and for the most part your body is equipped with what it needs to fight cold. What you can do is look at cough medicines, decongestants and other remedies to lessen symptoms and make yourself feel more comfortable. Inhaling steam doesn’t improve recovery times but it does help with congestion. Vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds either but some studies show that it can lessen symptoms and speed recovery slightly. So those of you training hard for competition during cold and flu season pay heed to the advice above to try to stay virus free and if you do get sick don’t be that guy, take a few days off.
This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook