If you’ve ever had the flu, you’ve probably also been put under doctor’s orders to avoid exercise until you’re fully recovered. But why is it dangerous to exercise when you’re feeling flu-ey? Ironically, it's as the flu season really hits, that it's time for half IronMan in Durban, followed shortly thereafter by Comrades Marathon 2019, and if you're participating, your current preparation will be at its most important. There'll be many of you who'll wake up in the morning feeling the slight fever, chills, sore throat or stuffy nose, and think, "I'll just run through it". This might be especially true of novice athletes. Here's what you should know about the dangers of training when you have the flu virus.
Because flu can affect the heart. Viruses which attack the nose and throat can also infect the heart. The body’s immune system then tries to fend off the infection. The chemicals released during the immune response can cause the heart to become inflamed, which impairs its ability to function properly. This inflammation is known as myocarditis.
Myocarditis can persist for weeks after you’ve recovered from the flu. In mild cases of myocarditis, you might not even have symptoms. But even mild myocarditis can cause serious illness or death – particularly during strenuous exercise. When exercising, you place the heart under additional stress, and an inflamed heart often can’t handle that stress.
So how do you know if you’re ready to exercise after you’ve had the flu? First, give yourself ample time to heal. Wait a week or two after your flu symptoms pass before you hit the gym. When you do feel ready to start exercising, get checked out by your doctor. Ease into physical exertion – try walking for a few weeks instead of running. And finally, pay attention to your body. If you have stabbing pains in your chest, shortness of breath, fatigue, abnormal heart rhythms or fluid retention, speak to your doctor.
Of course there's always the option of getting a flu jab, and you can book online, for yourself or the whole family. If you're still not convinced, maybe read "Should I really bother with a flu shot?"