Curious if you should be working out when you're dealing with a bug? We spoke to endurance athlete and family physician and Dr. Cathleen London, M.D. about the advice she offers clients when they ask the same question. The rule that Dr. London sticks by is: "neck and up!"
If your symptoms are in your head, nose, or throat — and you're feeling up to it — it's fine to work out. If it's below your neck (or in your chest), Dr. London says to dial it back. This is the time when you've really got to rest. Working out with a chest cold is "asking for trouble," since it can exaggerate your pesky symptoms and prolong your bug. Dr. London is a big believer in listening to your body and giving yourself the time and space to heal, even when it's "frustrating as all hell!" You'll thank your future self, since taking it easy is the only way you'll feel better, sooner.
Dr. London also shared a few of the habits that she sees in people who manage through cold and flu season unscathed. The mainstays are plenty of rest, a healthy diet full of antioxidants, and staying hydrated in cooler temperatures, but she says that exercise is also a big factor.
Besides keeper you saner through the holidays, exercise supports your immune system because it reduces stress. While stress wreaks havoc on your mind, it can can also wreak havoc on your immune system. When the levels of the stress hormone cortisol are heightened, it leaves you immunocompromised. Working out regularly keeps your cortisol levels in check — and keeps you healthier and happier!
Feeling under the weather? One of the most important things to do when you're sick is to replenish your body's fluids. Hydrating with water is essential, but these elixirs take things one step further. Each includes healthy ingredients that alleviate your symptoms and help you feel better sooner.
Apple Cider Vinegar Brew
If you're working with a sinus infection, just one inhale of this warming pungent drink will help you breathe easy through your nose and feel less cloudy in your head. A helping of apple cider vinegar brew soothes your symptoms with cayenne's anti-inflammatory powers, while the vinegar boosts your immunity.
Actress Nikki Reed swears by this cranberry cleanse for a little daily detox, and this antioxidant-rich drink is also effective when you're feeling under the weather. The cranberry and lemon juice in this recipe support your kidney and liver and help flush out toxins from your system.
Fresh Ginger Tea
To clear up congestion or a sore throat, we love this old family recipe for fresh ginger and lemongrass tea. As an added bonus, this recipe also works to soothe an upset tummy!
The classic hot toddy is one of the healthiest low-calorie cocktails for the holiday season. With the help of citrus, honey, and cinnamon, some folks swear by this one as a surefire remedy to knock out a cold.
Coffee may have its place as a healthy beverage, but green tea is often touted as the miracle drink for your mug. That's especially true with busy end-of-the-year schedules; here's why you should drink the green stuff regularly this holiday season.
- Weight-loss wonder: For many, the holiday season is the worst time for maintaining diet goals. During the season of indulgences, then, every little bit helps. Drinking green tea regularly has been shown to help suppress appetite and increase your metabolism — both of which can help you save or burn a few calories while you celebrate this season.
- Sickness prevention: Nonstop shopping, traveling, and socializing can mean the combination of cold-inducing pathogens and a weakened immune system, so give yours a boost with green tea. Several studies have shown that green tea has antiviral properties; one study found that taking green tea catechin capsules helped prevent health-care workers from catching the flu, and another found that Japanese schoolchildren who drank green tea for six days a week or more were less likely to catch the flu.
- Stress relief: Curling up with a warm beverage can be relaxing, especially when the rest of your day is hectic, but drinking too much caffeine has its downsides. Too much caffeine can lead to anxiety, stress, and trouble sleeping, so if you find yourself running out for a coffee break or having friends over for a cup several times a day, switch to green tea. Not only does green tea contain only half the amount of caffeine than a normal cup of coffee, but many people also say green tea's fresh, grassy flavor helps them relax.
You feel a cold coming on: a sore throat, that fatigued feeling, and a sniffly nose that won't quit. But if you've just got the characteristic "above the neck" symptoms, you can still fit in that workout. Just be sure to exercise at half your normal intensity, and choose one of these discomfort-relieving workouts — and if ever in doubt, choose rest and water instead.
- Clear your head: Battling a cold can leave you feeling stressed and just plain awful; these restorative, anxiety-busting yoga poses are made to calm you down.
- Take a walk: Your best bet is to exercise at half your regular intensity, and then gradually increase as you start to feel better; this walk-jog treadmill workout may be exactly what you need.
- Relieve sinus pressure: Open up your chest and unclog sinuses with this yoga sequence to relieve congestion.
- Dance it up: A quick cardio burst can make you feel better instantly. Dance along to your favorite upbeat songs, or dial back the intensity but keep the fun of this 10-minute PlyoJam workout to get things shaking.
- Stretch it out: This 10-minute stretching video can help you relax and feel better and is a great option if you're not up for a full workout.
Traveling during cold and flu season requires a proactive plan. Keep this list handy as you hurry through the holidays to stay healthy and happy on the go.
Prevention is the best policy: You know it's going around, so a little bit of defense never hurts. Take this tip from naturopathic practitioner Dr. Holly Lucille: water and vitamin C are easy prevention strategies that work. Dr. Lucille recommends that you up your vitamin C intake to 1,000 mg a day and stay hydrated — especially when flying — to help ward off germs.
Eat for immunity: Maybe your best-laid prevention plans didn't work and you're now nursing a cold. Put up a good fight with foods that boost your immunity, like whole grains, sweet potatoes, and yogurt, to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Learn more about why these foods (and more) help your immune system.
Deal with it: You've loaded up on immunity-boosting foods and have a thermos of green tea at your side. But dealing with the inconvenience of having a cold or the flu during holiday season is just another side of getting sick. Need relief from cold symptoms while traveling for the holidays? Here are some ways to help:
- Relieve sinus and ear pressure before you take off by placing a warm, damp towel on your forehead and unblocking ears by yawning. Find out more ways to relieve cold symptoms while you're traveling.
- Got sickness-related aches and pains? Traveling will probably make them worse, so pay close attention to your comfort levels while you travel. These stretches and exercises will help you soothe aches and pains during your journey.
- Being sick is annoying, but catching the common cold is no reason to stop your workout routine. Usually, above the neck symptoms like runny nose, congestion, and headache mean you're OK to exercise — and exercising will help boost your immune system and get you on the road to recovery faster. Need to modify your routine? Read about the best exercises to do when you're sick.
When your head is aching from sinus congestion and your nose is plugged up, going to yoga class is probably not the best option. Rather than completely neglecting your yoga practice, opt for a minisequence at home to open up your chest and improve your circulation.
If you are looking for a little more of a workout, simply complete a few rounds of Sun Salutations between each congestion-soothing posture.
A healthy diet can boost your immune system, but if you still happen to catch a cold, or worse, the flu, it's essential in helping you recover faster. Here are the foods you should be eating when you're sick.
You feel fine all day, but something happens when you tuck yourself into bed. A tickle in your throat leads to a nagging cough that only seems to happen at night, interfering with your sleep and leaving you irritable the next day. If you've ruled out the common cold or other respiratory infections, here are five common reasons you may be coughing at night.
- Asthma: Most people equate asthma with the image of someone gasping for air. Although this can definitely be a symptom, most people with asthma commonly experience a dry cough. Make sure to talk to your doctor about getting tested for asthma to rule it out as the cause of your coughing.
- Sinusitis: A chronic stuffy nose could also be the culprit. When sinuses are clogged, the mucus can drip down the back of the throat (postnasal drip), causing that annoying tickle. Allergies may be causing your sinusitis, and if using a neti pot doesn't help, your doc can prescribe allergy meds or a nasal spray to help clear your sinuses.
- Acid reflux: Acid reflux disease, aka GERD, can also cause coughing. When lying down, the acid in your stomach, which causes indigestion and heartburn, can also wash into your lungs. If you think that GERD is the problem, try eating a smaller dinner earlier in the evening and prop your head up on a couple pillows when you sleep. If this doesn't help, there are also OTC medications that work wonders.
- Iron deficiency: A diet lacking certain nutrients can also contribute to a chronic cough. If your body is low in iron, swelling and irritation in the back of your throat could be a symptom, which can lead to coughing. If this sounds familiar, then an iron supplement may be all you need.
- Check your drugs: Meds, like ACE inhibitors prescribed for high blood pressure, can create the side effect of a dry cough. Talk to your pharmacist to see if your coughing could be caused by one of the medications you're on.
While Google is no doctor, it's becoming one of the best ways to get in touch with one. For minor health concerns, the Internet (and your webcam) is a great way to contact MDs and nurse practitioners at a moment's notice. While serious emergencies should be taken to the ER and self-diagnosing should be done with caution, these five websites can help answer your health questions and put you in touch with a doc 24/7 — no paper gown necessary.
- MeMD: If you're suffering minor ailments such as allergies or cold symptoms, MeMD is a convenient solution to lines at urgent care. For $45, you can get a consultation from a nurse practitioner or doctor over your webcam. The wait time is around 40 minutes, and they can submit an e-prescription to your local pharmacy.
- Online Care Anywhere: Part of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, this site will connect you to a doctor via webcam or phone for $45. While doctors can be reached on weekends and holidays, they aren't available in all states.
- HealthTap: A great mobile option, HealthTap is very compatible with tablets and mobile devices. It's free to browse and post a question anonymously, but for a more in-depth response, you can choose to pay a small fee of $10. It's good option for advice and healthy tips, but not as helpful if you're looking to be directly treated.
- Pearl.com: This site can connect you to professionals in all sorts of fields (like law and auto mechanics), and it's a great site for medical advice. Pricing works on a sliding scale depending on your question's depth and response time, but expect it to be around $35. Responses are thorough, and you can go back for unlimited follow-up.
- WebMD: While it won't give you direct access to a doctor, it's filled with helpful medical and healthcare advice. It's a good place to search if you have a health question or curiosity. While it will get you thinking, it is good to remember to only rely on a doctor for a true diagnosis.