Tips for the sick rower
In the Northern hemisphere, it’s cold and flu season. But wherever you are in the world, there is always a chance of getting sick. World Rowing talked with doctors from the Sports Medicine commission to get their suggestions about what to do when you come down with the sniffles.
The first piece of advice, one that may be difficult for the avid rower, is to rest. Taking a few days off will help the body to fight off the infection. Dr Donia Koubaa adds that it is important to get enough sleep, hydrate and eat well. Dr Jo Hannafin also suggests avoiding caffeine and alcohol and increasing intake of Vitamin C (commonly found in citrus fruits like oranges, kiwifruit and grapefruit or in vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli).
Secondly, it is important to recognise the difference between a cold and a flu. While the common cold can cause a runny nose, sore throat and cough, the flu comes with another set of symptoms like muscle aches and fever. The onset of symptoms can also give you a clue as to what may be coming next. A cold will begin gradually, for example feeling sluggish and having a slightly scratchy throat. However the onset of flu will be abrupt, with rapid development of flu-like symptoms.
“If you have flu-like symptoms of joint and muscle aches, fever and respiratory symptoms see a physician promptly,” says Dr Hannafin. “There are rapid flu tests available that will confirm the presence of the flu. Treatment with anti-viral medications like Tamiflu can decrease the intensity and duration of Influenza A and B symptoms, if the medication is started within the first two days of symptoms. It can also be used to prevent development of influenza in people who have been exposed but do not yet have symptoms.”
Dr Koubaa also recommends taking preventative measures to limit the chance of spreading your illness. For example, sneeze or cough in a tissue, wash hands regularly and keep at least a one-metre distance for those around you. This will help keep your fellow teammates, family and others in your entourage, healthy.
When you feel better, you can gradually resume training. Dr Koubaa says to include plenty of stretching as this will help with virus removal. But remember that resuming training too quickly can be counteractive. And consult with your doctor about when you can resume competition. If you had a flu, Dr Koubaa says to wait for eight days and then only resume with medical authorisation.
In the end, it’s always best to check with your doctor when you get sick, but here are a few tips:
1. Rest, sleep, hydrate and eat well (no alcohol and caffeine, increase Vitamin C)
2. Decide if it is a cold or a flu
3. See a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms
4. Take preventative measures for those around you
5. Gradual resume training - including plenty of stretching
6. Consult your doctor about when you can resume competition