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Home >> News >> Medical Newsflash: Important guidelines on running with an acute infection

Medical Newsflash: Important guidelines on running with an acute infection

  • Ultra Marathon
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  • Medical

Acute infections can occur at any time, but in runners typically are more common at times of peak training and just before races. If you suffer from an acute infection it will interfere with your running performance, but more importantly also can cause serious medical complications during a training run or a race. We would like to assist you in running a safe race and reducing your risk of medical complications developing.

Tell us how you feel by CLICKING HERE. We'd love to help.

Infections can occur in many body parts including the respiratory tract, skin, urinary tract and gastro-intestinal tract. The following sections contain information and guidelines on exercise and some more common acute infections in various body parts.

Respiratory tract infections (“flu” and “common cold”)

Respiratory tract infections are the most common infections of affecting athletes and are caused by viruses (mostly), bacteria or other organisms. However, symptoms of respiratory tract infections may also be caused by a non-infectious cause such as an allergy. These infections mainly affect the nose, sinuses or throat area and are then known as upper respiratory tract infections.

Symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection are blocked nose, runny nose, sore throat, and painful sinuses. These infections do not usually result in symptoms affecting the whole body (fever, muscle pain, joint pain, general tiredness).

If the infection spreads to the airways and lungs this is known as a lower respiratory tract infection. Typical symptoms of a lower respiratory tract infection are cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Usually, but not always, these infections are associated with symptoms affecting the whole body (fever, muscle pain, joint pain, general tiredness).

Running and respiratory tract infections

Taking part in exercise while having an infection can be very detrimental to your health and can cause serious complications. Some of the viruses can affect the heart muscle (known as myocarditis), resulting in heart muscle damage and even sudden cardiac death. Please remember that other infections, such as measles and chickenpox affect the respiratory tract and your whole body. They are contagious and it is recommended that you do not exercise when you suffer from these illnesses.

There are very strict guidelines to assist you in preventing complications during running when you have symptoms of a respiratory tract infection.

Please take note that if you have any of the following symptoms of respiratory tract infections, it is recommended that you do NOT take part in exercise:

  • Fever
  • General muscle pains
  • General joint pains
  • Chest pain
  • Increase in your resting pulse rate
  • Shortness of breath (more than usual)
  • General tiredness (fatigue) that is more than usual
  • Severe sore throat
  • Swollen and painful lymph nodes in your neck

If you have any of these symptoms we suggest that you do NOT train or race, and consult your doctor for further advice and treatment.

In some mild cases where your symptoms are only in the upper respiratory tract (no generalized body symptoms) your doctor may allow some form of low-moderate intensity exercise.  If you do decide to race, we suggest you see how you feel after 10 minutes or so.  If you feel unwell we suggest that you stop running.

When can you resume running after a respiratory tract infection?

It is suggested that you can return to running after a respiratory tract infection only when all your symptoms have disappeared and you feel well again. If you are not sure, please have an evaluation by a qualified medical doctor.

Think you have a respiratory tract infection? CLICK HERE to complete this easy questionnaire.

Running and gastro-enteritis (gastro-intestinal infections)

Gastro-enteritis (including gastro-intestinal infections), is also very common in athletes, particularly when travelling. The causes of gastro-enteritis can be as a result of an infection or a toxin (“food poisoning”). The typical symptoms of gastro-enteritis are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramping (pain).

Acute gastro-enteritis can have detrimental effects on your ability to run, largely as a result of dehydration and electrolyte disturbances (electrolytes being the salts in your blood, like sodium and potassium).  Symptoms affecting your whole body such as fever, muscle pain, joint pain, and general tiredness may also occur.

There are very strict guidelines to assist you in preventing complications during running when you have symptoms of gastro-enteritis. Running with gastro-enteritis may aggravate the effects of dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities, which can cause confusion or other brain disturbances, or trigger abnormal heart rhythms and possibly even sudden cardiac death.

Please take note that if you have any of the following symptoms of gastro-enteritis, it is recommended that you do NOT take part in exercise:

  • Fever
  • General muscle pains
  • General joint pains
  • Dehydration (dizziness when standing, decreased urine volume and concentrated urine, thirst, dry mouth and decreased saliva production)
  • On-going nausea and vomiting
  • On-going abdominal cramps
  • Increase in your resting pulse rate
  • General tiredness (fatigue) that is more than usual

If you have any of these symptoms we suggest that you do NOT train or race, and consult your doctor for further advice and treatment.

Gastro getting you down? CLICK HERE to tell us how you're feeling and we may have the right advice.

Other acute infections

If you have symptoms of any other acute infection (including bladder infections, skin infections etc.), especially in the week before the race, we strongly urge you to seek a medical opinion from a qualified medical doctor.

The medical team will be at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon Expo at the CTICC to assist you if you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned in this email. Please come and chat to us if you have any concerns.

Good luck with your race!

Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon Medical Team

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