Running Advice: Should I Run With A Cough and Cold?

The Dilemma We Face As Runners with a Cough and Cold

Deciding whether to go for a run when you’re battling a cough and cold can be tricky. You want to stay active, but you also need to take care of your health. It’s like trying to find the balance between keeping up with your weight lifting routine and giving your body the rest it needs to recover.

Picture this: you’re sniffling, sneezing, and dealing with a cough that just won’t quit. You might feel the urge to hit the pavement, but is it really the best idea? This article dives into the ins and outs of running with a cough and cold, exploring whether it’s a good call or if you should take a rain check.

From understanding how a cold affects your body to weighing the pros and cons of exercising while sick, we’ve got you covered. So, whether you decide to lace up your sneakers or opt for some extra rest, let’s dive in!

The Common Problems Runners Face With Colds

Running can be challenging, but adding a cold with a cough can make exercise nearly impossible. Trying to run with a cough and cold can lead to:

  • Fatigue, discomfort, and dehydration 
  • May also lead to injury or worsening symptoms
  • Interfere with breathing 

A heavy, hacking cough causes you to gasp for air, making it difficult to get the oxygen your body needs to sustain a workout. This can lead to dehydration and even put you at risk for heat-related illness if you exercise in a hot environment. 

Understanding the Cold and Cough

A common cold is a viral nose, throat, and sinus infection. It causes nasal stuffiness, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and a cough. The symptoms usually clear up without treatment within a week or two. A typical cold is caused by one of many viruses called rhinoviruses. 

The virus enters the body through contaminated droplets that are expelled when someone with a cold coughs or sneezes. You can also catch a cold by touching something with rhinovirus and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. The most common ways to catch a cold are through close face-to-face contact or hand-to-hand contact with someone with a cold or by sharing eating utensils, spoons, or other items.  

The Immune System's Role

Your immune system fights the virus by sending white blood cells to the infected area, which causes the nose and throat to swell and produce mucus. A cough develops as the body tries to expel the excess mucus. The cough may linger after the other cold symptoms disappear, but this is normal. 

Coughs that remain after a cold or upper respiratory infection are called post-infectious or post-viral coughs. Sometimes, the virus enters the lungs and causes a chest cold, which causes irritation and mucus buildup in the lungs. 

This can be more severe than a regular cold, and the cough is more persistent. It is not uncommon for the lungs to become infected with bacteria after a chest cold, which can lead to complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Pros and Cons of Running with a Cough

There is evidence that jogging can help alleviate some of the common cold symptoms. The adrenaline released during a workout can be a natural decongestant and help clear up your sinuses. In addition, exercise can help to circulate infection-fighting white blood cells in your body. 

However, it is essential to remember that every person and situation is different, and it is best to use your judgment when deciding whether or not to run with a cough and cold. 

Cons of Running with A Cold

While you may be tempted to push through your workout with a cold, sometimes it is not ideal. The body works hard to fight the virus, and the exercise can exacerbate symptoms, such as coughs or chest congestion. It is best to rest and allow your body to recover. 

Running with a cold can also make you tired since your body uses extra energy to fight the virus. This can drain your strength and make it harder to maintain a good pace. The risk of getting a more severe illness is also increased. 

Another problem with exercising when you’re sick is that it can worsen your symptoms. For instance, it can cause your throat to swell, leading to difficulty breathing. It can also cause your temperature to rise, increasing your dehydration risk. 

Consequently, it’s vital to keep hydrated when running with a cold. Another concern is that you might be tempted to push yourself when sick. This can backfire, as it may prolong the recovery time from your workout and make you feel even worse. 

Furthermore, it can also compromise your immune system. As a result, you’re more likely to get a severe illness like bronchitis or sinusitis. This is why so many ultrarunners come down with a cold right before their most significant races. It’s hard to distinguish a cold from a severe bacterial infection in most cases. 

Benefits of Running with A Cough and Cold

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, moderate exercise may help you recover faster. It’s best to start with a short run and gradually increase the volume as you feel better. However, it’s crucial to take it easy and avoid putting too much strain on your body. 

With that being said, here are some of the positives running can do when sick: 

● Engaging in light exercise like running may promote improved blood circulation, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues. 

● Additionally, exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which can enhance mood and alleviate feelings of fatigue associated with being sick. 

● For some individuals, maintaining their exercise routine during illness helps instill a sense of normalcy and discipline, contributing to mental well-being. 

● Moreover, mild symptoms such as nasal congestion or sinus pressure might be temporarily relieved by the increased airflow and drainage facilitated by physical activity

Factors to Consider Before Running with a Cold

Running with a cold may be OK, but it’s a good idea to scale back your typical training duration, frequency, and intensity. Taking extra fluids and nutrient-rich foods to support your immune system makes sense. 

Additionally, it would help if you also avoided alcohol and caffeine since these can cause dehydration. If you feel strong enough to run, warm up, stretch, and cool down thoroughly. 

During the run, you should focus on your breathing and heart rate recovery while keeping the pace slow enough to enjoy the exercise. It would help if you alternated between running and walking every kilometer, depending on the severity of your symptoms. 

Additionally, you should skip your run if you have symptoms like a tight chest, high temperature, and aching muscles. Running with these symptoms could cause your cold to worsen, potentially developing into a bronchial infection. 

Also, allergies, instead of a cold, might cause some of your symptoms. Allergies are usually characterized by itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing, while a cold typically causes congestion and coughing. 

If you are unsure whether allergies cause your cold symptoms, consider consulting a doctor for help. They can point you in the right direction and prescribe the proper medication for you. 

Tips for Running Safely with a Cold and Cough

When it comes to running with a cold, many runners need to figure out when it’s OK to continue their workout. While there are a few exceptions, it’s usually best to avoid exercising when you have a cough or other symptoms that indicate a respiratory illness. 

According to running coaches and doctors, it’s generally safe to exercise if your symptoms are above the neck. This means that you should be able to run with a runny nose, sneezing, and a mild cough that doesn’t produce mucus or phlegm. 

If you have a dry cough, you should also be able to run without too much difficulty. In addition to a dry cough, it’s essential to determine whether or not you have a productive cough. A productive cough produces mucus or phlegm, which can interfere with breathing and cause discomfort while exercising. 

If your cough produces phlegm, take a break from running and consider taking medication to help clear the phlegm. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids while running with a cough is also a good idea. This will help clear out your sinuses, keep you hydrated, and help boost your immune system. 

Lastly, it’s important to remember that cold and seasonal allergies often share similar symptoms. If you’re experiencing a runny nose, congestion, and sneezing, you likely have a cold rather than allergies. A hacking cough or fever, on the other hand, are signs of a more severe illness and should prompt you to take a rest day.

A Final Recap

Deciding whether to run with a cough and cold can be challenging, but understanding your body is critical. Remember the following key takeaways: 

● Running with a cough and cold can be challenging. It might make breathing hard and lead to dehydration. Plus, it could make you feel worse or cause injury. So, if you’re feeling terrible, it’s better to take a break and focus on getting better. 

● Remember the “neck rule”: above the neck, you can run; below, it’s better to rest. Also, cold air might make breathing harder, and running can help some cold symptoms, but not always. 

● Before you decide to run, think about how you’re feeling. If you’re still up for it, try taking it easy and staying hydrated. And remember to warm up and cool down properly. 

● If your symptoms are more serious, like chest tightness or a fever, it’s time to skip the run and rest up. And if you’re not sure, it’s OK to ask a doctor for advice. 

● In the end, your health is most important. So, whether you lace up your shoes or stay in bed, listen to your body and do what feels right.

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