Our expert says:
It depends on the cold, I guess. I would most importantly suggest that you consult a doctor early on - colds have a tendency to become more serious if they are not stopped early, at least by a change in your behaviour. In other words, if it's just a cold, and you try to run and exercise through it, chances are it will take 2 weeks to recover, whereas it could have taken 1 week if you'd rested. So, the one concern is the time to get over it, and you have to be pragmatic about it. The second concern, and more serious perhaps, is the health risk. If you have above the neck signs, such as a runny nose, sneezing, or a sore throat, moderate exercise is generally safe as long as you do not have a fever. You can resume intense workouts as soon as symptoms disappear. If you have below the neck signs, such as extreme tiredness, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, swollen lymph glands, or a hacking cough (common to bronchitis), allow at least two weeks before returning to intense training.
Do not exercise with a fever. Fever (a body temperature above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) signifies you are doing battle with a virus. Exercising under these conditions increases risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and even heart failure. You know you have a fever if you have alternating spells of hot and cold, and sore tender muscles. This is what I referred to as 'below the neck symptoms' earlier.
If you have cold or flu symptoms, you cannot power away your ailment through more intense workouts. In fact, you may make your illness worse. A simple sore throat, for example, could indicate an infection, and your immunity to fight it will be reduced if you continue vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise, however, is fine for mild cold symptoms (sinus etc included) as long your heart rate and body temperature do not increase excessively.
Generally speaking, a common cold is probably best treated with rest and not trying to exercise for a little while, and then taking it very easy when you do return. As I said, you can't get better by exercising, but you can get a lot worse.
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