January 05, 2009

Cold Comfort

Who me? Nah, I don't have a cold.

I take pride in having a powerful, take-no-prisoners immune system. Sure, I used to get colds, back when I was younger, but now I don't. Colds are for lesser mortals, who don't have such a kick-ass disease-fighting abilities.
Bring it on, bugs. I'm ready for ya!

Why yes, I did just blow my nose, but I have allergies. Probably due to the cat I'm not willing to give up, or possibly to the dust I'm too lazy to clean up. (And for anyone curious about the neti pot experiment--nope, it didn't help with the runny nose, and in fact even seemed to make it worse. Think there's much of a market for used neti pots?)

But anyway, a runny nose is normal for me and does not mean I have a cold.

Oh, these cranberry-flavored, Vitamin C-enhanced Ricola lozenges? Well, they're just very tasty, that's all. That's why I've been sucking on them for the last few days.

If I did have a cold, which I do not, I now have some more information about whether I could go to they gym today and work out. The New York Times just ran a helpful article about when you can exercise with a cold and when you should sit it out. Even though I won't need this information personally, I'll be happy to share it with you.

Most of The Time, You CAN Exercise With a Cold

According to some older studies they dug up in the NY Times article, exercising with a cold does not seem to be a big deal.

In one study, researchers infected 45 young adult subjects with a head cold and made them exercise. They concluded: "Having a cold had no effect on either lung function or exercise capacity."

Well, that's great! But unless you're a serious athlete, isn't the real question whether the exercising makes your cold worse? Not whether having a cold makes your exercise performance worse?

Turns out they looked at that too. Researchers started with 34 subjects, gave them all colds, and had half of them just rest. The other half had to run on treadmills. Then every 12 hours, they asked subjects a bunch of (probably annoying) questions about their symptoms and physical activity.

And get this: "The researchers collected the subjects’ used facial tissues, weighing them to assess their cold symptoms." (Career counseling note to self: academic research may sound prestigious and all, but... collecting and weighing other people's snotty Kleenex??)

The bottom line: There was no difference in symptoms between the group that exercised and the one that rested, or in the time it took to recover from the colds. But the exercisers were more likely to say they felt better.

So for those of you who want to go for it even though you have a cold? This is indeed good news! Those of you who were hoping to get let off the hook, read on.

When to Sit it Out

However, the article stressed that these experimental colds were only head colds. They said to use more caution if running a fever or experiencing chest congestion.

And heck, just use common sense--you probably know if you feel way too crappy to work out, no matter where your symptoms may be located.

Back in the olden days, when I used to get colds, I'd mostly still exercise. I always felt like I deserved triple credit though, just on principle.

Back to the Cold I Do Not Have

So why do I take such smug pride in my resistance to the common cold? Well, I wasn't born with a particularly robust immune system, and in fact, I used to catch pretty much any bug that was going around. But over the past decade or so, I've been getting better about eating all the right stuff--plenty of fruits and veggies and garlic and green tea and fish oil pills and whatever the heck the experts are recommending this week. I get lots of sleep and exercise. So I feel like my not catching colds is a hard-earned badge of my (mostly) healthy habits. (I even dodged the stomach flu last week when the poor Lobster got hit, and I ALWAYS used to be the first one to get stomach flu.)

Still, it's curious. What's the deal with the sore throat I had a couple days ago? And the coughing and congestion at night? Oh, and my voice: it's hard not to notice that it's been steadily descending in pitch. First it just went down to a kinda-sexy Suzanne Pleshette, then further down to Lauren Bacall, past even Bea Arthur, and now it's settled in the James Earl Jones range.

Could it be?


Nah, not me. I don't get colds anymore.

How about you folks, do you have awesome immune systems or do you catch whatever comes around? Do you exercise when you have a cold?


  1. I have a good immune system! And I always exercise when I'm poorly. I especially like working out with a hangover. It shifts the toxins.

    I WOULD say get well soon, if you had a cold, which you clearly don't.

    TA x

  2. I always exercise when I have a cold and reserve the right to complain loudly, blow snot rockets, and tell anyone within ear shot about how dutiful and cool I am about working out because I am working out with a cold.

  3. Lately I don't seem to get sick too often. I thought I was great then what happened two days before Christmas despite me declaring to anyone with ears that I would not be catching the various bugs flying around?! A nasty head cold and cough descended upon me! I'm afraid exercise is out for me when I'm like that. When I do get coughs I also seem to be prone to congestion/chest infection etc so I do my best to get rid of it as quickly as possible and I don't believe exercise helps that. In fact this time after a week and feeling slightly better I headed out for a walk and ended up with it all back again! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  4. I used to get everything that I came into contact with. Now I have a vitamin and nutritional supplement regimen that seems to keep me well, unless I get soaked through and chilled, in which case a very nasty cold is a direct and immediate consequence. I know people insist that catching a chill causing illness is an old wives tale or just plain nonsense, it's all about the virus, yadda yadda, but it is in fact not all about the virus, it's all about how the body responds to the virus. The viruses are omnipresent, and when I've gotten chilled through, my body's response is to go nuclear on whatever happens to be floating around, for 7-10 days and with excessive (even for a cold) sinus involvement. Consequently, I am obsessive about staying warm and dry and taking my vitamins.

    And for me the cold is an excuse for curling up in a ball under a blanky on the couch with tissues and tea and ginger ale and I'll see you in a week or so, thank you for leaving me here under my rock. ;)

    Glad you don't have a cold. If you did, I would let you know that this "tea" plus cayenne pepper and/or tobasco (don't know why she left that out) has worked well for me in the past.

  5. If you had asked the Bag Lady a mere week ago, she would have told you that she hasn't been sick for quite some time....

    I'm glad to hear that you don't have a cold, and, like TA, would wish you a speedy recovery (if you did have a cold, that is....)

  6. Crabby,
    I'm no expert, but this reads like you may have a cold. :)
    Now getting to your article I couldn't help from seeing the dark side of this and wonder what fun the clinical researchers had in giving perfectly healthy individuals a germ that gave them a cold. Something inside me says that giving healthy people a germ that makes them sick is wrong, but I can see the humor in this too. I always wonder how they achieved this stuff in the name of science. You suppose it was an injection? Did they use other human being with colds to sneeze in their face? Maybe they had them drink some wild concoction or they could have let 20 preschool kids that touched about everything they could reach and hop up in everyone’s lap. However they did it, I hope that the payment was go for the targets. Of course if I was one of the subjects, I would make sure that I left a very heavy Kleenex to be counted.

  7. I used to get colds, and sinus infections, and many other things. Then I quit work to stay home with my father. In the year and a half since then, I've been to the doctor once (other than my annual checkup--and how strange is it that the word verification is "cheakeop"?) when I got a secondary infection from an insect bite. One round of antibiotics when I would normally need about six. Please, if you insist on coming to work, leave your germs at home. I don't need them--I have my allergies to complain about, thank you!

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  8. When I was a kid I seemed to get sick all the time, now it seems like I don't get sick as often. But if I am feeling bad enough to say "I'm sick" then I usually will take some time off exercise. I figure if I've managed to catch a cold, then I probably need a few days of taking it easy. Plus, I have asthma which most of the time doesn't cause me much trouble, but I do notice it more if I'm sick.

  9. Crabs don't get colds, do they? I think it's just a delayed allergic reaction to all those rum balls from the Christmas party. That's my expert opinion.
    I'll send you some more virtual chicken soup, just in case.

  10. welcome home, Crabby.. i'm glad you missed out on the stomach bug.. i'd say that this head cold that you don't have would probably be a little easier to deal with than that bug!

  11. I have a great immune system (probably due to loads of vitamins plus good genetics) BUT I teach at a college, and I have a teenager, and the combination means that I'm exposed to every festering germ that may be lurking. So sooner or later something always gets me.

    I have to say, though, that when I remember to get a flu shot, I usually don't get the really nasty thing, and that's a huge improvement. Especially since I'm a "never cave in to sick" kind of person and just feel compelled to keep doing whatever I'm supposed to do, just in a weak and pathetic sort of way.

  12. Moving to London has done my immune system in! I NEVER used to get colds, EVER. Maybe its the stress of moving to a new country, or all the city grit I'm exposed to, but I gotta get back on the robust immune system train ASAP!

  13. I used to be immune to everything until I got a nasty viral pneumonia in university - now, thanks to my asthma I get most things that go around. I have found that insane, almost loony, handwashing and getting a flu shot helps a great deal. I'm more worried about making other people sick..when I see people hacking all over in public I get annoyed...

    I have tried to exercise when I have a cold and my lungs generally shut down all together if I do, so I take a break until I'm a bit better and aren't wheesing like an old man. Of course, this, um, means I was working out before I got sick...um...yeah. For sure.

  14. Loved this post! haha And I guarantee you - grad students weighed those snotty tissues - ew! When I was in grad school we were all assigned as a research assistant to a professor. Blah on archives and survey research. Anyway - I feel like I used to be sick all the time - sinuses, allergies, colds, etc. Always on a Z pack, always taking nasonex. But honestly, I began working out regularly last April, and began watching what I ate in September and ever since i've not been head cold/sinus/etc. sick ONCE. :) I'm pretty smug about it, too! haha Knock on wood!

  15. I don't get as sick as I used to nor as often now that I'm a stay at home writer. If you had a cold, which you obviously don't, I'd recommend a whole whack of Vitamin C. It's best to take it at the first sign of a cold, but even when it's in full flower it helps.

  16. Cranky, no it can't be a cold....but if it does turn out to be I have to say that I'm getting mighty suspicious....Didn't you say something about visiting Northern California over the New Year????

    I too have a kick-butt immune system, I never catch anything. So I must surely have to blame you (and your visit up my way) for the fact that my tissues have been well... um... lets just say particularly heavy the past 5 days and like you, I've been indulging in those 'nice-tasting' honey 'n lemon throat thingies.

    In future can you keep your germs south of northern California please. Very nice of you to share them around generously but (sniff! sniff!)...did they say anything about measuring how red 'n raw little noses get too?

    And heck who wants to stay inside breathing in those re-circulating cold gremlins when I could be out ski-ing (not easy to blow noses behind those ski masks) and going for nice walks. P.S. Don't tell my mother, you know what mothers are like.

  17. Glad to hear most everyone is doing so well!!

    I have always exercised through colds, even the rare flu. I also take Vit. C daily.

    I do stay away from others if I am sick, however. No reason to test their superior immune systems :-)

  18. I'm still living in a fantasy world I've constructed which looks exactly like the real world, except in my world the neti pot doesn't exist.

  19. I dont get sick and need to playsickmoreoften.
    the toddler? the husband? sickly (or more sick than I :)) and always enjoy a good day on the couch barking orders at the Miz.

    If I lived closer Id not cook for you :) (as I like you too much) but Id rent us trashy movies and make ya some campbells with MY matzaballs thrown in for good jewish healing measure.

  20. Well, I hope you feel better soon from your...allergies?

    I have a crap immune system. But I think it's because my work is sucking my soul out from my fingertips.

  21. I tend to have a poorer immune system, although I'm pretty sure that it's mind-induced: I get sore throats and headaches when I'm about to have a serious talk with someone, nausea when anxious, and a whole gamut of things when I feel like I'm "stagnating".

  22. James Earl Jones. lol. I just got over my non-cold. :)

    I always just listen to my body. If I have the energy, I exercise. If I can't breathe and get winded going up stairs, I take a break.

  23. Feel better! :D

    I have a good immune system but I like working out when I'm sick because it makes me feel virtuous hehe. And sometimes I push myself harder when I've got a cold than I normally would so I end up getting an awesome workout. It's funny.

    Except I once tried going for a walk- just a walk- a couple days after I got my wisdom teeth out. What ensued was a 12-hour period of non-stop throwing up. So that was some bad judgment on my part.

  24. How about you folks, do you have awesome immune systems or do you catch whatever comes around? Do you exercise when you have a cold?

    I'm all about positive attitude when it comes to sickness and tend to think I can "will away" diseases. When my mental fortitude fails though I tend to take it easy and just walk Scooby instead of doing anything more hardcore.

  25. I hardly ever get sick, but did catch a cold around Thanksgiving. And I didn't work out. :)

    Feel better soon!

  26. Same here, Superior immune system! i rarely get a cold (maybe a sinus infection once every 3 or 4 years). When I do get cold symptoms or fevers, I call them allergies b/c that's what they are. When my husband gets them I call them "personal weaknesses".

  27. Sending healthy healing vibes your way, Crabby!

    Not that you're sick or anything. ;)

  28. I feel like if I talk about how often I DON'T get sick than I pretty much am asking for a cold.

    I'm hope your not-really-a-cold goes away soon!

  29. For a while, after I became an adult, I prided myself on my immune system of steel. I hardly ever got sick, even when everyone around me was flat on their backs on the couch surrounded by tissues and Nyquil.

    Then I had kids.

    Now, I get EVERYTHING!

    Unfortunately, I can't always get someone to sub my classes when I'm sick, so, yes, I work out when I don't feel well.

    But i avoid touching or even breathing on my clients.

    (Oh, and as far as clinical research goes, I thought it lost a bit of its luster when I heard about the study on cow emissions: researchers studied the effect of cow flatulence on the ozone layer.)

  30. I hope those stubborn allergies clear out soon. It's awful when allergies masquerade as a headcold.

    And, I especially hope discussing them doesn't bring the wrath of the cold - I mean allergy - imps down on my head.

  31. I rarely get sick. But when I do, watch out. I don't get head colds. No, when I get sick, I get the flu. Or strep throat. Or pneumonia. Or something else that makes me wish I were dead. I am an all-or-nothing gal - no middle-of-the-road colds for me. It sucks.

    Fortunately, I don't tend to get sick very often. Thank God.

  32. I usually do exercise when I have a cold, although I may cut back a bit. I think it does help a bit on the mental side, which is important too.

    - Dave

  33. I haven't had a nasty cold in almost two years (knock on wood). I am more likely to get the stomach flu lately it seems.

    All this healthy eating & exercising must be good for something!

  34. My immune system is a piece of work (crap)! Then again, maybe it's my immune system's low self-esteem that underlies its ability to function properly.

    Occasionally I catch a cold and if my right knee and left hip don't give out, I will still exercise through it all.

  35. I used to get everything (and sometimes everything at once). Then I had my tonsils ripped out (yes, I'm gonna say ripped because they had to strap me down to give me the pre-surgery sleepy needle. I HATE HATE HATE needles).

    Anyway, the removal of my tonsils, which were an all-inclusive, tropical resort for germs, ceased all cold, sore throat, cough, and ear ache festivities. It is GLORIOUS!

    Anyway, I'd like to think I'd workout through a cold, but I probably couldn't catch my breath b/c I'd be whining too much.

    And you definitely don't have a cold. You're nose is just making sure its emergency clearing systems work IN CASE you ever do get a cold.

  36. Hahaha! I am exactly like you! I totally fight being sick and then am in denial about it for the longest time. And yeah, you know I exercise when I'm sick. Which is probably a sickness in and of itself;) Feel better soon!!

  37. I have not been sick with something that requires antibiotics since 1997. I don't get colds either. I am not some elite athelete either. I watch what I eat, train for long distance runs and follow the rules. I really don't know what it is. But it annoys me to no end that my spouse seriously gets a cold every other week all year long. He denies it's his crap diet of soda and tostitos cheese dip.

  38. I don't exercise when I am well, so this really isn't an issue for me!

    I must say, I had trouble focusing on the article after the used neti pot remark! EEWWW!

  39. I would totally do yoga with a cold. But probably not if I had a fever. I still have to sing if I had a cold. Sometimes it actually helps....:-) Great resonance.

  40. I'm with you on teh netti pot. I haven't been "sick" often, but sinus infections have been terrible this past year (@ 4-5, each minimally three weeks long) :( And, antibiotics can suck real bad for girls, as most of us probably know. I would take an average old cold any day over that stuff!

    I don't think I'd like doing research anymore if I had to deal with people's snot rags. ick.

  41. I hope the person you know, which of course isn't you, feels better soon ;)

  42. i have the perma-mucus apparently which makes it seem like i always have a cold, but for the most part, my immune system is pretty damn strong. yay!

    when i'm feeling crappier than other days, i may still work out and how hard i push it depends on what my body is willing to let me do.

  43. Vitamin C and Garlic. I know someone who swears by it, and so far I've found it works for me. Hope you feel better soon.. from you non-cold.

  44. I couldnt possibly work out with a cold OR a hangover, but I am full of admiration for anyone that can :)

    I have been sick for about 3 weeks now and I'm feeling fat and sluggish - I wonder why!!

    Happy New year - good health!

    Tusc :D

  45. I have a great immune system! This hasn't always been the case though.

    I credit my good immunity to a (relatively) healthy diet, some supplementation (ex. vitamin C), exercise, the fact that I'm happy and also, like Crabby, a stubborn refusal to get sick.

    If I were to feel really bad (it hasn't happened for a long time), I would skip the exercise.


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