The tennis season is almost over, winter is approaching, and indoor tournaments are in full swing. Professional tennis players can be at an increased risk of catching a cold due to intense exercise and training routines that can decrease the function of the immune system and subsequently reduce the ability to fight off illnesses. International travel, changes in time zones and climates, lack of sleep and recovery, inadequate nutrition and physical and emotional stress can all affect players resulting in a compromised immune system (immunosuppressed).
HOW DO YOU “CATCH” A COLD?
Colds and flu are types of infections. Tiny living organisms, (so small that you can only see them through a microscope) such as bacteria, viruses and fungi cause infections. Infections are spread by:
- Airborne – by breathing in contaminated particles. For example: tiny droplets released into the air when a sick individual sneezes or coughs, these small particles can be re-circulated through the heating/cooling systems of airplanes and hotels
- Indirect contact – consuming contaminated particles. For example: touching a contaminated object (door knob) and then unknowingly touching your eyes/mouth/nose, or consuming food prepared with unsanitary practices
- Direct contact – touching and/or close contact with infected individuals.
- Exercise – It’s a proven immune booster
- Eat Right – Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits that provide essential antioxidants.
- Stay Well Hydrated – Drink lots of water and sports drink during indoor tournaments.
- Get Enough Uninterrupted Sleep – 8-9 hours per night.
- Practice Good Stress Management – Use relaxation, meditation or mindfulness and recovery techniques daily. Learn assertive communication skills and improve self-esteem to lower your stress levels.
- Practice Good Hygiene – Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before eating and after using the bathroom; use hand sanitizer when soap/water is not available, wipe down the tray/arm rests of airplane seats with an anti-bacterial wipe, avoid close contact with infected people; don’t share drinking glasses or food; bump elbows or fists instead of exchanging a high five.
- Watch your fingers – Mindlessly we rub our eyes or scratch our noses, this is an easy way for germs to enter
- Balance Your Training Load – Excessive training decreases your immune response so pay attention to signs of excessive training (fatigue, muscle soreness, injuries that don' t heal, irritability, boredom, performance slump) and reduce your training intensity and amount. Speak to a Primary Health Care Provider (PHCP) or Athlete Assistance for guidance on how to do this effectively.
- Use Recovery Methods – Massage and hydrotherapy help prevent overtraining and improve recovery.
- Get Fresh Air – There is NO scientific evidence to support the belief that spending time in cooler temperatures makes you more susceptible to catching a cold
- Prevention products – Utilize saline solution to keep your nasal passages moist and get a flu shot.
Is it a Cold or the “Flu”?
A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) that causes a runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, and sometimes fever.
- Colds are caused by one of more than 200 viruses, so symptoms will vary depending on which virus is the cause. In general, the symptoms usually last for a week.
- Colds are different from other bacterial and viral infections in that they do not usually cause high fever (greater than 102°F or 39° Celsius), gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) or a productive cough (coughing up green or yellow material).
The “flu” or influenza is a specific viral infection, caused by the influenza virus, which affects both the upper and lower (bronchial tubes and lungs) respiratory systems. It can cause the same symptoms as a cold, but in addition, it causes high fever (greater than 102°F or 39° Celsius), productive cough, chills and body aches.
- There are three types of influenza viruses A, B and C. Each year, Type A and B can change and produce different strains, that are often more powerful than previous years.
- These strains begin in a certain area of the world and are carried to other areas by international travelers.
- Each year 100 million people in the Northern hemisphere get the flu; and between ¼ and ½ million people worldwide die from the flu.
- Anyone can contract the flu, but some individuals are more susceptible than others. Immunosuppressed individuals, including the elderly, those diagnosed with chronic illness, or even athletes who are overtraining and under recovering.
Maybe I Need the Doctor?
You should consult your primary care physician if you have:
- Fever over 102°F or 39° Celsius
- Productive cough
- Any symptoms that stay more than 1 week
- Body aches and pains
- Breathing difficulties
- Pain in your ears
- Persistent headaches
- Very sore throat
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and must be prescribed by a physician. Antibiotics are ineffective for any viral infection. Don’t share medications among friends and family! Finish all the prescribed antibiotics even if your symptoms have resolved…otherwise the infection may return, only stronger and more significant!Antibiotics
GET THE FACTS, NOT THE FLU!
The FLU VACCINATION is the most effective way to prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses. The vaccine is an inactive form of the virus, so you CANNOT contract the flu from it. Side effects are minimal but can include: irritation at the injection site and/or muscle aches & fever, either of which may last a few days. The best time to get the injection is from mid-October through mid-November. If you’re diagnosed with the flu, antiviral medications can be prescribed by a physician, BUT to be effective these medications must be started within the first 48-hours of symptoms onset. If you are exposed to a person with a documented case of influenza, you can be prescribed specific antivirals for influenza for up to a week which may prevent you from contracting the flu.
Over the Counter (OTC) Medicines
OTCs help to decrease symptoms and make you more comfortable. Before taking anything, check the ingredients on http://www.globaldro.com, contact IDTM (firstname.lastname@example.org or via the TADP app) and/or show the Prohibited List to your doctor before taking anything (a searchable list is on the TADP app). DO NOT SELF MEDICATE. You risk ingesting a prohibited substance.
Vitamins and Supplements
Many believe that large doses of Vitamin C, Echinacea and Zinc prevent colds; scientific studies do not support this claim. There is some research to support zinc supplementation may shorten the duration of a cold. The ITF recommends players use extreme caution with dietary supplements due to the risk of producing a positive doping test. Before using a supplement, search for the product on http://www.nsfsport.com and take the other steps recommended by the ITF on the TADP app and http://www.itftennis.com/antidoping. USANA Health Sciences provides vitamins and health supplement products to WTA players which are guaranteed by USANA to be free of prohibited substances and are manufactured to comply with requirements that assure product purity. But remember, you are solely responsible for everything you ingest and so use of a contaminated supplement will not excuse a doping violation.
- Eat well, even if you are not very hungry. Eat small balanced meals throughout the day.
- Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated (water, sports drink, and fruit juices)
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as they can cause dehydration
- Use a moist humidifier while sleeping and make sure to clean it each day.
- Gargle with warm salt water; drink warm water with honey and lemon to soothe a sore throat.
- Use steam inhalations to help clear blocked sinuses and a “stuffy” nose and head.
- Stay away from the courts! This prevents the spread of infection to others and allows your body the necessary rest to recover.
- Take a break. Avoid or decrease exercise while you are sick as it may weaken your immune system and prolong your cold.
The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.