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Athlete-based management and prevention of Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI)

  • (Utdrag fra artikkel skrevet av Ola Rønsen for IAAF i 2005)

It is important to underline that virus and bacteria causing RTI may be both received by and passed on from the same individual. This means that one should pay as much attention to routines that prevent the transmission of potentially contagious material from oneself to others as the opposite way from others to oneself. The golden rule of practicing the same standard of hygiene when in contact with others as you expect others to practice towards you should be an overall objective. The following list summarizes some preventive measures and practical guidelines against infections in general but mostly aimed at RTI.


Guidelines for the prevention of respiratory tract infections

  1. Make sure that you are updated on all vaccines needed at home and for travels
  2. Minimize contacts with infected/sick people, animals and contagious objects
  3. Keep at distance to people who are coughing, sneezing or having a “runny nose”
  4. Wash hands regularly, before meals, and after contact with potentially contagious material
  5. Use disposable paper towels and limit hand to mouth/nose contact when suffering from RTI symptoms
  6. Quickly isolate a team member with RTI symptoms and move out his/her roommate
  7. Check air condition/ventilation systems for potential contagious material
  8. Do not use other peoples drinking bottle, cups, silverware, etc
  9. Wear proper out-door clothing and avoid getting cold and wet after exercise
  10. Protect upper and lower airways from being directly exposed to cold and dry air during strenuous exercise, by using facial mask etc. at temperatures below -15oC
  11. Practice good recovery routines, including proper nutrition and rehydration


Guidelines for exercise during respiratory tract infections

First day of illness:

  • Drop strenuous exercise or competitions when experiencing RTI symptoms like
    • Sore throat or coughing
    • Runny or congested nose
  • Drop all exercise when experiencing additional RTI symptoms like
    • Muscle/joint pain and headache
    • Fever and generalized feeling of malaise
  • Drink plenty of fluids, keep from getting wet and cold, and minimize life-stress
  • Consider use of topical therapy with nasal drainage, decongestants and analgesics if fever
  • Report illness to a team physician or health care personnel and keep away from other athletes if you are part of a team training or travelling together


Second day:

  • If you have fever (temp >37,5-38oC) or increased coughing : No training !!
  • If no fever or malaise and no worsening of “above the collar”-symptoms: Light exercise (pulse < 120bpm) for 30-45 min, indoor during winter and by yourself


Third day:

  • If still fever and RTI symptoms: Consult your (team) physician at phone or office
  • If no fever or malaise and no worsening of initial symptoms: Moderate exercise (pulse < 150bpm) for 45-60 min, preferably indoor and by yourself


Forth day:

  • If no symptom relief: Do not try to exercise but make an office visit to your doctor
  • If first day of improved condition: Follow the guidelines of “return to exercise” below :


Guidelines for return to exercise after respiratory tract infections

  • Make sure that you have one day free from fever and improvement of RTI symptoms before returning to exercise.
  • Observe the body’s reaction to your first exercise session before starting on a new session the next day.
  • Stop physical exercise and consult you physician if
  • New episode with fever or worsening of initial symptoms
  • Persistent coughing and exercise-induced breathing problem
  • Use the same number of days to step up to normal training as spent off normal training because of illness.
  • Observe closely your tolerance to increased exercise intensity and take an extra day off if not recovering satisfactory.
  • Use proper outdoor clothing and specific cold air protection for airways when exercising in temperature below –10oC the first week after RTI

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