Streaming eyes, snotty nose and tiredness isn’t fun and it means you won’t want to ride your bike! Take some proactive steps to avoid the misery of a cold and stay healthy this winter.
Wrap up warm
How many times has someone said to you as you head out on your bike ‘oooh you’ll catch a cold going out on a day like this’? Getting cold won’t give you a cold, only the cold virus will, however, there is an element of truth in it. If you already have the cold virus lurking, then getting cold makes it more likely that symptoms will worsen or the virus will catch hold. If you have the tell-tale scratchy throat, tingling nose or itchy eyes take a day off your bike and stay warm, you might just be able to avoid it developing.
However, keeping away from the cold virus and not letting it enter your body is the only sure fire way to not get cold symptoms, but that is easier said than done. The cold virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours so opening a door after someone who has the virus is enough to transfer it to your fingers. Hygiene is critical in winter, wash your hands constantly and avoid touching your mouth or eyes.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids as mucous is our natural defense against a virus entering our body. It will find it easier to get to work on your nose and throat if it is dry.
Eat more fruit
Loading up on oranges and vitamin C in winter is a popular way of preventing catching a cold but for the general population large doses of Vitamin C doesn’t work. There is good news however if you are a cyclist. In athletic populations, such as cyclists and marathon runners, research has shown that taking Vitamin C after bouts of exercise can prevent a cold. High doses at the onset of symptoms can reduce the length and severity of symptoms. Start taking it as soon as you notice symptoms. A high dose is 1,000mg up to three times a day, but be careful as large amounts can cause diarrhea and gut irritability so start slowly and see what your body can tolerate.
Zinc is another supplement that has been shown to lessen the symptoms. Zinc lozenges taken at the first sign of a cold will reduce the length of time a cold hangs around for. It should be possible to get the recommended daily amount of zinc (7-10mg) from a healthy diet by including foods such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, shellfish and nuts. If you are supplementing during a cold do not exceed 25mg a day and only do this whilst you have symptoms as long term supplementation with zinc is not recommended.
Know when to rest
If you have cold-like symptoms follow this golden rule. For symptoms above the neck it is safe to continue with light cycling and exercise may even help to reduce symptoms and clear congestion. For symptoms below the neck and in particular anything that has made its way to your chest stay off your bike completely and avoid all exercise until symptoms have gone.