Q. How to avoid cold and flu after winter workout?

Answered by
Dr. Geetha Priyadarsini Kamminana
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Oct 22, 2016 and last reviewed on: Jan 09, 2019

Hello doctor,

I like to go running. I was a very successful marathon runner when younger. Now I still workout, but my goal, apart from general health is mostly emotional fitness for the job. I work on the phone with customers and I have to be in a strong positive mood to be successful. I am currently living in a country where the climate is very cold and dark. When I work out it is not about speed or distance for me it is about sweating. Because, when I breathe deeply and sweat very deeply, I have the feeling that is the point when my cardiovascular system gets activated the most.

Now, I found some friends who are really in shape and who do really great workouts with me. The problem is that since I do not have a car, I always have to reach back home by foot. This weekend I am currently with cold and flu. I think that I got it because I went running, sweated, stopped and then walked slowly with wet clothes through the night for about 30 to 40 minutes. In the summer, I never had this problem. Since I train with the friends, I sweat even more and the winter has already started. What do you like to tell me about this? Should I manage to run home, even with wet clothes such that I would at least not get cold? Should I take a taxi to reach home in 15 minutes? Should I later take a warm bath?

Dr. Geetha Priyadarsini Kamminana

General Medicine Internal Medicine


Welcome to icliniq.com.

Yes, it is easy to catch cold, particularly if you are in a cold, wet and windy weather. Also, exposure to extremely cold temperature affects you in many ways and can cause frost nip (first stage of frostbite), trench foot (prolonged exposure of feet to cold) and frostbite (damage to skin due to cold), chilblains (itchy swelling in hands due to blood vessel inflammation) and last but not the least hypothermia (low body temperature).

On the top of that, you being a marathon runner and a fit person will be having less amount of subcutaneous fat, which usually insulates you from cold temperatures like a quilt. Moreover, after a workout and sweating a lot, if you do not compensate by drinking water, you may get dehydrated and that further predisposes you to the ill effects of cold exposure. Well, I would advise you to take a cab to return home, particularly when the weather is so cold.

Here are few don'ts you need to keep in mind.

  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not wear wet clothes.
  • Do not smoke as smoking constricts your blood vessels and impairs your body's natural defensive mechanisms to fight cold temperatures.

Also, I suggest few dos post workout.

  • Do wear good warm winter clothes.
  • If you sweat a lot during workout, have water or juice to compensate for the loss of fluid and thus avoid dehydration.
  • You can take warm drinks like coffee, soups and lukewarm water.
  • You can always take a warm shower.

If you have any frost bite or any blisters, then immediately do not pour or immerse in hot water. Take a pair of extra clothes and never run in cold weather in wet clothes. Take a taxi particularly now as you have flu. You may take lukewarm showers. Warm shower definitely helps you to fight cold, but does not compensate for the cold injury. The length of exposure to cold temperatures depends on the variables such as the temperature, warm clothes you wear and your physical condition. Do take care of your health as the degree emotional health that is crucial for your living is directly proportional to your health.

For further information consult an internal medicine physician online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/internal-medicine-physician

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Thank you doctor,

I have another question. In this cold country, I get grippe around three to four times in each winter. Does this have long term consequences for the heart or lungs? I have some left-sided chest pain. Can this be the reason?

Dr. Geetha Priyadarsini Kamminana

General Medicine Internal Medicine


Welcome back to icliniq.com.

Grippe or flu is an acute viral illness. Though it is perennial (detected all year around), its incidence peaks in winters due to cold temperature. It will make the respiratory mucosa dry and thus impair the natural defense mechanism to fight the bug. Taking rest along with adequate fluids and Paracetamol is the mainstay of management. Flu, though benign, may sometimes become malignant due to secondary bacterial infection leading to bacterial pneumonia and sometimes mutations may lead to viral pneumonia.

Taking protective measures like good food, not sharing linen and kerchiefs, avoiding too cold temperatures to fight winters.Your chest pain again may be cardiac or non-cardiac, that is may be musculoskeletal due to spasms or gastric. Clear description of pain that is type, location, intensity, radiation, sweating, nausea or vomiting, duration of pain, aggravating and relieving factors are required to categorize the pain.

Revert back with the detailed history to an internal medicine physician online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/internal-medicine-physician

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