Welcome to COLD VS FLU!
It came to my attention, after having spent this week suffering from a cold, that a lot of people do not know that there is a difference between a cold and flu, and that they do have different implications for when you can start exercising again. Therefore, to make up for my lack of posting while I've been sick, let me enlightening you.
A cold and a flu have a lot of similar symptoms, but are actually quite different illnesses (keeping in mind that there are like a thousand varieties of flues which vary greatly in intensity, and colds get around quite a bit too). There are probably great, long descriptions of the medical stuff behind the two but here is my general purpose user-friendly distinction:
If you have stuffy nose, sore throat, maybe developing into a cough etc., but felt that if you cut your head off the rest of your body would be a bit weak by otherwise fine (except, of course, for the fact you had no head) then you have a cold.
If you have all of that, plus have aches and pains all over, your joints hurt and it might occasionally feel like someone has accidentally poured molten lead into your bones: that's a flu.
To give you a better idea, I've stolen this chart from WebMD:
|Fever||Sometimes, usually mild||Usual; higher (100-102 F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days|
|General Aches, Pains||Slight||Usual; often severe|
|Fatigue, Weakness||Sometimes||Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks|
|Extreme Exhaustion||Never||Usual; at the beginning of the illness|
|Chest Discomfort, Cough||Mild to moderate; hacking cough||Common; can become severe|
|Complications||Sinus congestion; middle ear infection||Sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infection, pneumonia; can be life-threatening|
|Prevention||Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone with a cold||Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone who has flu symptoms; get the annual flu vaccine|
|Treatment||Decongestants; pain reliever/fever reducer medicines||Decongestants, pain relievers, or fever reducers are available over the counter; over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to young children; prescription antiviral drugs for flu may be given in some cases; call your doctor for more information about treatment.|
So, why is this important to know as someone interested in fitness?
Obviously after coming down sick, you want to get back in to training as soon as you can, but without risking further damage.
The good news is that if you have a cold, research suggests there is no harm in actually exercising while you are still sick, as long as it is only moderate. From personal experience I will point out that trying to do exercise when you can't breath through your nose does have some difficulties, and I recommend sticking to things that don't require too much coordination.
However, if you have the flu exercise is not recommended. This is also extended to later parts of a cold if you have developed a chesty cough. Anything neck down is a no go. Now is the time to sit back, sleep, and catch up on bad TV.
General rule to remember:
If it is all in your head, you are good to keep going. Anything else and it's time to slow down.