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Exercise and the Common Cold

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Too Much Exercise May Increase Colds

It's not a problem for most of us, but if you're an exercise fiend, make sure you take time for rest and recovery after periods of intense training.

Your immune system works best when it isn't stressed. Scientists say athletes who train intensely without building in recovery time are more likely to get colds or flu.

When workouts get too strenuous, the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in your body can go down. At the same time, your stress hormone cortisol may go up, which may interfere with the ability of certain immune cells to work right.

When Should You Call the Doctor About Exercise and Colds?

If you exercise with a cold, call your doctor if you notice:

  • Your chest is more congested.
  • You cough and wheeze.

Stop your activity and get emergency medical help if you:

  • Feel chest tightness or pressure
  • Have trouble breathing or get very short of breath
  • Get lightheaded or dizzy
  • Have problems with balance

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on January 20, 2015
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