Running With A Cold: Should You Run If You’re Sick?

”Running with a cold! Is it safe for me?”

Running can protect you against the common cold. It benefits by strengthening your immune system and lowering your stress hormone levels.

When you have a cold, it might be tempting to keep running, especially if you are preparing for a marathon or working toward a fitness goal.

Scientific research has evaluated the impact of exercise on sickness, especially colds and respiratory infections. There are a few easy guidelines that might assist you to determine whether to run or stay at home.

If you’re wondering if running with a cold is safe, this article covers all your doubts.


Is it ok to Run with a Cold?

When you have a cold, you may suffer a number of symptoms that last 7 to 10 days. These symptoms include:

  • Running nose
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headache

Before working out when sick, there are several aspects to consider. This covers the intensity of your workout as well as the severity of your symptoms.

Running with a cold: Is it ok?

It completely depends on your cold – running when sick might help you feel better. If you’re not careful, it might potentially make you feel worse.

Runners are well-known for enduring all types of injuries and illnesses. Sometimes hard work pays off.

It can become hard at times! When it comes to feeling sick, staying at home may be the best option.

This section will look at the factors to consider while selecting whether to continue running with a cold or not.


When You Can Continue Running with a Cold?

A physical workout is typically safe if your cold is mild and you don’t have excessive discomfort.

Consider the location of your symptoms for taking the correct decision. You may be able to exercise safely if your symptoms are located above your neck.

However, it is still advisable to take it easy. As you continue to stay physically active, your immune system will be able to fight off the cold.

You can mitigate the effects of your running routine by:

  • Reducing the duration and intensity of your run
  • Jogging rather than running
  • Do moderate walks instead of running

When You should not Run?

If you have more serious conditions, you should avoid running with a cold. This includes fever and any symptoms that occur below your neck, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest congestion
  • Chest tightness
  • Hacking cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle or joint aches
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These symptoms might point to a more serious illness.

Running with a cold while experiencing these symptoms can extend your recovery period or worsen your condition.

Furthermore, if you have a fever, running can increase your chances of dehydration or heat-related sickness.

If you have more severe symptoms, it is advisable to stay at home and rest. If you still want to exercise, try mild stretching.

Most Basic Rule that Can Help You Decide

Medical professionals recommend that you follow a basic rule to decide whether you should or should not continue running with a cold.

The rule is dependent on where your symptoms are located. In brief, examine your symptoms and decide if they are above or below the neck.

The Neck Rule

The above-the-neck/below-the-neck rule is a tried-and-true criterion for determining whether it is safe for you to continue running with a cold.

You can continue running if your symptoms are mild and “above the neck,” such as a headache, runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, or sneezing, indicating that you have a common cold.

Any symptom “below the neck,” on the other hand, such as chest congestion, coughing, body pains, vomiting, or diarrhea, indicates a more serious illness that will most likely necessitate some rest.

Training may end up doing more damage than good.

It is not necessary to work out if your symptoms are “above the neck.” If you do decide to run, go carefully and stop immediately if your symptoms worsen or become unbearable.

Some Exceptions to the Rule

The neck rule, like other rules, has notable exceptions.

Even if the symptoms are minor, “full-body” signs such as a temperature should cause concern.

While a fever can lead to seasonal allergies, it is quite often an indication of an infection.

Similarly, dizziness should never be underestimated. Dizziness can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from a decrease in blood pressure to a middle ear infection.

Whatever the cause, running with a cold may not be safe if your balance is disturbed. If the symptoms do not improve it’s better to consult a doctor.

There are instances when nasal congestion is severe enough that it impairs your breathing. If you have a “nose cold” and are breathing totally through your mouth, you should avoid running with a cold.

While a nasal decongestant may be beneficial, it is advised to discontinue exercising if you find yourself gasping for air or feeling lightheaded.

You may want to limit yourself to walking or weight training until you can breathe normally again.

Running with a Cold and Cough

Running with a Cold and Cough
Running with a cough is ok with minor symptoms. However, if you have a fever or any other illness, it is preferable to stay at home and rest.

Running with a cough is not the same as running with a cold.

Coughing is caused in the lungs, which are readily visible behind the neck.

Stay at home if you have a persistent or severe cough.

Running with a cough will make you miserable from the start. The more you attempt to push through it, the worse it will feel.

It is OK to run with minor symptoms. However, if you have a fever or any other illness, it is preferable to stay at home and rest.

It is important to be truthful about the intensity and location of your symptoms. Don’t try to mislead yourself into believing you’re feeling better than you are.

Also, remember that running with any symptoms should be considerably gentler than anything you’d do during a hard training run.

A lot of my advice is based on how severe the cold is.

As previously said, if the symptoms are below the neck, such as aching muscles and body pains, it is advisable to relax or go for a walk instead of running with a cold.

If you have a slight cold, you can still continue running with a cold, but your speed should be much slower.

For example, if your typical speed is 9 minutes a mile, you should slow down to 10:30-11:00 minutes a mile.

When you’re unwell, the goal of a run isn’t to improve your fitness. You need to do everything possible to get well as soon as possible so that you can get back to running.

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The issue is that many of us try to push through the illness, which just contributes to putting us back.

Running with a Sore Throat

Running with a sore throat should be OK if you follow the same Above the Neck rule.

Heavy breathing may be bothersome, especially if you are running in a cool climate, but it should not discourage you from your efforts.

If a sore throat is your sole symptom, don’t let that keep you from getting out there. Stay at home and relax if the sore throat appears to be the initial symptom of a larger sickness.

Do you want to know how to identify whether your sore throat is an indication of anything more serious?

One typical warning symbol: if you finish your run with a headache (despite drinking lots of water), this might be the second symptom of your sickness.

Running a Marathon with a Cold

Running a Marathon with a Cold
If you are facing symptoms above the neck, such as running nose or sneezing, you should run the marathon. However, if you have symptoms below the neck – bronchial infections, sore throat, cough, chills, you should skip the marathon.

It’s a real bummer to have a cold right before a marathon!

If you don’t want to miss your marathon due to a nasty cold, here’s what you should do.

You should run a Marathon with a Cold or Not?

If you are facing symptoms above the neck, such as running nose or sneezing, you should not cancel your marathon.

Running with a cold can even benefit you with nasal congestion since it causes your body to create adrenaline, which acts as a natural decongestant and helps you clean up your nasal passages.

However, if you have symptoms below the neck – bronchial infections, sore throat, cough, chills, chest cold, muscular pains, swollen lymph nodes, or vomiting – you should visit a doctor right away and possibly skip your marathon.

Sometimes one foolish decision might lead to a deterioration in your health, or a minor cold can develop into something serious and hazardous.

So the most important thing to remember here is to listen to your body; it always tells you what to do.

You should Take Medicines Before Marathon or Not?

To take medicines or not is a tough and personal decision that you must make under the supervision of your doctor. I can only tell you how such medications affect your body.

Cold medicines typically dry up the nasal passages and may have an impact on other systems.

Some medications, for example, might dehydrate you and raise your heart rate. Others might make you feel dizzy or weak.

Of course, you should not take any new medications on the day of the marathon.

If You Decide to Run Marathon

  • You should carry a handkerchief with you.
  • To stay hydrated, you should drink more water than you typically do.
  • You should find out where the medical tent is near the marathon, and if you feel feverish or just unwell, you should go there straight away.
  • You should not take any medication before the marathon.
  • You should pay close attention to your physique.

Thus, while selecting whether or not to continue running with a cold, you must consider all risks, evaluate the benefits and drawbacks, and, of course, consult with your physician.

Remember that if you are unsure, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Cold vs Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

According to the above-the-neck rule, symptoms limited to the head are generally less severe.

The above-the-neck symptoms are most often connected with allergies and colds.

Even if you have an allergy, you may generally manage exercise without compromising your health.

Even the most severe allergy symptoms can be managed without the risk of serious consequences.

The common cold, on the other hand, is a different issue. If the viral infection is not treated properly, it can develop and lead to a variety of problems, including strep throat, ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

As a result, you must be able to recognize the early indications of above-the-neck illnesses.

In some situations, what you think is hay fever may actually be the beginnings of a cold or flu.

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Here is what you can do for allergy:

  • Examine the pollen counts: When pollen levels are low then only go for a run outside. Pollen counts are often lower in the morning.
  • Avoid dry and windy conditions: It is preferable to run outside after it has rained, as this decreases the amount of pollen in the air.
  • Put on a hat and sunglasses: These accessories shield pollen from your hair and eyes.
  • Take allergy medicine as directed: Consult your doctor for advice. If the medicine makes you drowsy, you may need to take it at night.
  • Bring your rescue inhaler with you: If you have allergic asthma, your doctor may advise you to bring an inhaler with you on your run.
  • Run inside: Consider running on a treadmill or indoor track, especially during the pollen season.

If you’re worried about running with allergies, consult your medical professional or an allergist.

Running with a Cold Tips

Finally, whether your symptoms are above or below the neck, be careful about your running routine if you are infected.

If you are coughing or sneezing, wash your hands frequently and keep your distance from others.

Apart from this, here are some more great tips for running with a cold.

  • Reduce the intensity and run at a more leisurely pace.
  • Interval training should be discontinued since it puts your body under undue strain.
  • Cut the distance — now is not the time to go for a lengthy run.
  • Turn off any GPS monitoring gadgets so you aren’t tempted to overdo them.
  • Don’t run in a competitive group that will push you over your limits.
  • Stay away from races.
  • Don’t forget to dress appropriately for the weather. Along with the winter running gear such as layered jackets and thermal base layers, wear a winter cap, and warm gloves.
  • Winter running clothing will keep you warm.

Tips for Treating a Cold

Now that you know how running with a cold can impact you, so let’s talk about some tips that will help you treat the cold.

While there is no cure for the common cold, there are steps you can take to control your symptoms and assist your body in healing.

To help relieve your cold symptoms, try the following home remedies:

  • Consume lots of fluids: Drink plenty of water, juice, tea, or clear broth to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, both of which can lead to dehydration.
  • Warm drinks are preferable: Tea, warm lemon water, and soup can all help with congestion.
  • Rest: Make sure you sleep properly.
  • Gargle with salt water: Gargle with 8 ounces of warm water combined with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt if you have a sore throat.
  • Make use of a humidifier: By increasing the moisture in the air, a humidifier can help reduce congestion.
  • Use an over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine: Coughing, congestion, a sore throat, and headaches may be relieved by over-the-counter medicines. Consult your doctor for advice, and make sure to follow the directions.

Final Thoughts

Running with a cold is typically harmless, especially if the symptoms are located above the neck. However, it is equally critical to pay attention to your body. Instead of your normal running routine, consider a less demanding exercise like jogging or brisk walking. It is advisable to avoid running with a cold if you have more serious symptoms, such as a fever, hacking cough, or chest discomfort. Exercising your body excessively may cause your symptoms to worsen. You can support your body fight off the illness by resting. This will help you to resume your regular routine sooner rather than later.


1. What type of workout is safe if I have a cold?

Running isn’t the only method to stay physically active. Apart from running with a cold, you can try different forms of exercise if you have a cold.
Options that are risk-free include:

I. Walking
II. Jogging
III. Leisurely cycling
IV. Stretching
V. Gentle yoga practice

Avoid tasks that demand a lot of physical effort.

2. What are the possible side effects if I continue running with a cold?

Though running with a cold that is mild is typically safe, there are certain risks. This might include:

I. Dehydration
II. Worsening of symptoms
III. Dizziness
IV. Breathing difficulties

These adverse effects are proportional to the intensity of your symptoms. Furthermore, if you run at your regular intensity, you are more likely to encounter side effects. Consult your doctor first if you have a chronic illness, such as asthma or heart problems. Running with a cold may worsen your current condition.

3. When is it safe to start running again after recovering from the cold?

As your cold symptoms fade, you can gradually resume your usual running schedule. Many people’s cold symptoms will begin to improve after 7 days. Begin cautiously and gradually increase your distance until you are back to your regular running routine. This will guarantee that your body has adequate time and energy to heal completely.

4. Is it safe to run if I have allergies?

Colds and seasonal allergies share the somewhat same number of symptoms, including a runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. The most noticeable difference between allergies and the common cold is itchy eyes. This is an unusual sign of a cold. In general, it is safe to run with allergies. Depending on the intensity of your allergies, you need to take the necessary precautions to run safely.

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