Does Swimming with a Cold Make It Better or Worse?

Swimming is a fantastic form of exercise that can be beneficial for your overall health and well-being. But is that statement still true if you have a cold? Does swimming with a cold make it worse?

Does Swimming with a Cold Make It Worse

The answer depends on the severity of your cold symptoms. If your symptoms are mild and mainly “above the neck,” such as a runny nose, sore throat, or sneezing, then there’s less danger to you. However, if your symptoms are below the neck, like chest congestion, fever, or body aches, it’s best to avoid swimming until you recover.

Not only could it potentially make your cold worse, but you also run the risk of spreading the infection to others in the pool. Keep reading on to learn why swimming with a cold is not a good idea.

How a Cold Affects the Body

When you catch a cold, your immune system kicks into action to fight off the virus. The symptoms you experience, such as a runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, fever, and congestion, are your body’s way of trying to eliminate the infection.

A cold typically starts with a virus entering your nasal passages. Your immune system then begins to produce mucus to trap and flush out the virus. This is why you may notice a runny nose and congestion in your sinuses during the early stages of a cold.

As the virus continues to multiply, it can spread to your throat, causing a sore throat and increasing mucus production, which might make you cough.

Sneezing is another common symptom of a cold. It’s your body’s natural way of expelling the virus and preventing it from entering your lungs. While sneezing can help remove the virus, it can also spread it to others.

Your immune system can sometimes produce fever in response to the virus. A fever helps create an environment that is less hospitable to the virus, making it more difficult for the virus to multiply and spread. Fever can also be an indication that your body is actively fighting the infection.

Although most of the symptoms you experience during a cold are your body’s natural response to fighting the virus, they can also cause discomfort and make even daily activities more strenuous, so swimming should be the last thing on your mind. In the next section, we talk about the risks of swimming with a cold.

The Impact of Swimming with a Cold

The Physical Impact

When you have a cold, the symptoms may include a stuffy nose, coughing, and difficulty breathing, particularly during exercise. Swimming with a cold can exacerbate these symptoms, as the water pressure and physically demanding nature of swimming can make it difficult for you to breathe comfortably.

Additionally, cold water can often cause your nasal passages to constrict, which may worsen congestion and make your swimming experience less enjoyable.

The Immune System’s Response

Your immune system is working hard to fight off the cold virus when you’re sick. Engaging in intense physical activities like swimming can redirect blood flow away from your immune system and towards your muscles, which could potentially weaken your immune system’s ability to combat the illness.

It’s best to give your body the rest it needs to recover and avoid activities that might strain your immune system.

Increased Risk of Complications

Swimming with a cold can increase the risk of complications, such as developing a sinus infection or an ear infection. Water and bacteria can become trapped in your nasal passages and ears while swimming, which can worsen your symptoms or lead to additional infections.

Spreading the Cold

Lastly, it’s important to be mindful of others in the swimming pool. Going swimming while you’re sick can increase the risk of spreading the cold virus to others, especially in communal spaces like public pools or locker rooms. To protect yourself and others, refrain from swimming until your cold symptoms have subsided.

By understanding the impact of swimming with a cold on your body and those around you, you can make more informed decisions about when it’s best to hit the pool and when it’s better to rest and recover.

Debunking Myths about Swimming with a Cold

Myth 1: Swimming is Good for a Cold

You may have heard that swimming can help “flush out” a cold. This popular myth suggests that engaging in physical activity like swimming can help speed up the recovery process. However, swimming with a cold may not be as beneficial as you think.

While light exercise can sometimes provide relief from nasal congestion, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Swimming with a cold may cause additional strain on your system, potentially making your condition worse.

Myth 2: Cold Water Can ‘Shock’ Your System into Getting Better

Another myth claims that immersing yourself in cold water can “shock” your body into fighting off a cold more rapidly. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this notion.

In fact, exposure to cold water increases the risk of hypothermia and can weaken your body’s ability to ward off infections. Swimming in cold water while sick could further weaken your immune system and prolong your recovery.

Myth 3: Exercise Always Boosts the Immune System

It is true that regular exercise can contribute to a strong immune system. However, this doesn’t mean that exercising when you’re already sick will always lead to a faster recovery.

When you have a cold, your body needs rest and most importantly, a chance to recuperate. Overexerting yourself by swimming or engaging in other strenuous exercises can put additional stress on your immune system, potentially prolonging your illness. Just take it easy and prioritize rest and relaxation while you’re recovering from a cold.

When to Get Back to Swimming

Getting back to swimming after having a cold might be on your mind as an avid swimmer. To make an informed decision about when to dive back in, consider a few factors that can impact your recovery and the wellbeing of others.

Firstly, when your symptoms are mainly above the neck, technically it should be safe to swim. This includes symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing and slight sore throat. However, ensure you’re not contagious anymore, as colds typically clear up within a week, but can sometimes last up to three weeks.

On the other hand, if your symptoms are below the neck, such as chest congestion, a fever, or a chesty cough, it’s best to avoid swimming until you fully recover. Swimming is a rigorous activity that can worsen your condition and prolong your recovery time.

Moreover, remember that chlorinated pools may protect you from some germs, but chlorine doesn’t work instantaneously; therefore, there is still a risk of spreading the cold virus to others.

To sum it up, you can get back to swimming when your symptoms are mild, primarily above the neck, and when you’re no longer contagious. If you have below the neck symptoms, wait it out and ensure you have made a full recovery before returning to the pool. Don’t forget to consider the wellbeing of others and always exercise caution when deciding if you’re ready to swim again.