Multi-day hike while recovering from a cold?
June 14, 2016 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it a terrible idea to go on a multi-day hike in wintry conditions while recovering from a head cold? I've been planning to go on a 3-day, 3-night hike with a group this coming weekend, but at the end of last week I came down with a head cold which I'm still recovering from, and I need help deciding whether I should back out of the trip.

I think I got through the worst of my cold last weekend, but I've still been congested with little further improvement for the last few days and my throat feels mildly irritated. Temperatures have been predicted to be sub-freezing even during the daytime where we will be hiking (the Pouakai circuit in New Zealand), and it is likely that there will be one or more rain showers as well, but supposedly not too much wind. The first two days of hiking would be relatively short (2-3.5 hrs each) but not flat, and the last day would be 5-7 hrs across fairly steep up-and-down terrain. Would my participating in this hike be likely to impair my recovery and/or make other people in my group sick?

Additional considerations: I really want to go on this hike -- it's on my bucket list for while I'm in New Zealand. On the other hand, I will be here until December so it's possible I could make it another time, though it would probably be much less convenient (I don't have a car, and it might be difficult for me to find another group with a driver). It's also important for me to recover quickly and fully as possible from this cold, as I have to present at a conference a week after we would return from the hike, and my boyfriend is visiting for a 2-week road trip shortly after the conference.
posted by st elmo's fire to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're still contagious, then yes, simply because your nose is more likely to run and rain will be all over everything (wouldn't that actually be snow, if it's going to be below freezing at ground level?) there will be increased risk of spreading whatever it is to other people. If you go, bring hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Have fun whatever you end up doing!
posted by XMLicious at 4:37 PM on June 14, 2016

Rain, sub freezing and cold sound like a recipe for misery.

However, How fit are you? Have you done much backpacking in crappy conditions? If yes, then go for it, sleep in your own tent and carry plenty of instant soup. If you are relatively novice hiker, I'd pass on it. It's not worth the hassle for either you our the rest of the party.
posted by larthegreat at 4:52 PM on June 14, 2016

I'd go! It's fine to work out when you're in the late stages of recovering from a cold. No big deal if your nose runs or you hawk a lugie while hiking. You're going to be gross anyways. You're not going to be shedding much virus this late in the game and your recovery won't be delayed much if at all. I really want to come too!
posted by Kalmya at 5:23 PM on June 14, 2016

I don't think you would be contagious, and I don't think you would be doing yourself injury or making yourself more sick or anything. At the very worst, you may be slightly prolonging the duration of your cold. But you may want to consider how much your enjoyment would be hampered by this, and that is something to consider as well.

It's possible to do outdoors/physical stuff in less-than-perfect physical condition - two weeks ago I also went hiking and camping for a weekend, and I was on the tail end of a mild ankle sprain. But my ankle was recovered enough that all I had to do was stick to some of the easier trails and chill at the campground when I felt i had to, and bring ibuprofen with me. That kept the symptoms at bay enough for me to still have a good time. By the same token, trying to do ziplining with a NASTY sinus headache was a bit less fun as a result (it was still fun, but I spent a good chunk of the time with a stabbing feeling in my nose and that got REALLY distracting in between runs, and I did find myself thinking "god I want to be done so we can get Sudafed" now and then. It was still a blast, but if I'd taken care of myself a bit first, I'd have had an even better time.

So weigh just how uncomfortable you may feel in a less-than-ideal situation, consider whether you would be able to alleviate your discomfort enough to still have a good time, and then decide based on that. You want to get to the "eh, I can just take it easy and I'll be fine" point, you don't want to be at the "god I want to stop zipining so I can go get medicine" point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:25 PM on June 14, 2016

How much fun do you think you will have with these people if you go and you're operating at %50? Because I've been known to have "doped myself up to the gills" to get away with having a good time at something I was dying to be at.

If you're into that approach: dope yourself up to the gills with OTC stuff. Keep ON TOP OF IT (this is difficult for some people--I have no idea why... WHY?!?). And keep a comfort pack on hand with wet wipes, tylenol, advil, cold medicine, zantac, allergy stuff, a cloth you can get wet and make warm or cool, maybe a sleep mask... whatever your thing is. You're not going to take ALL the medications: just what you need, with precision and on the clock.

Push through and make it miserable/fun if you can. Make memories. Keep a diary and bring a camera. Bring lots of toilet paper or tissue.

(full disclosure: I hate camping and I would be at home, binge-watching Tales from the Crypt and drinking warm things with cats on me.)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:27 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you go to a doctor tomorrow? Then you'd be sure of your status (contagious, improving, whatever) and they can make some recommendations.

If there were zero improvement from the way you feel today, would you be able to enjoy yourself? I recently went to the beach on the tail end of a head cold and while it didn't make me worse, I was more miserable and slow than I imagined I'd be. Like walking on sand felt like I was dragging chains and I usually zip around. You know your body-- is this something you could power through?

Have fun if you go, and don't despair if you don't-- you'll find another way if this is bucket-list level.
posted by kapers at 6:31 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

A week after the worst of a cold, I wouldn't expect you would still be contagious (but I don't have any medical expertise.) And this is a cold, not a serious illness. It's not the end of the world if you pass it on to someone else. They won't come down with symptoms until after the hike is over, so it won't ruin their hike.

Based on how colds usually affect me, I would expect to feel basically fine a week after the worst of it, certainly capable of walking for 2 or 3 hours. By the time you get to the harder day you will have had a couple more days to recover. I highly doubt going on the hike would impair your recovery. I usually find that if I have a cold getting outside and getting some exercise makes me feel better, not worse. If I were you, I'd go without a second thought.
posted by Redstart at 6:50 PM on June 14, 2016

You know best how your recovery from colds and suchlike usually goes. Be honest with yourself. Do you usually recover fine without lingering issues? Or are you one of those people who often ends up with a cough for weeks that just won't quit? I am the latter, and by ignoring people's advice about running a 14k event a week after a cold last November, my lungs still haven't recovered and I feel really dumb.

But if you usually bounce back fast, I'm sure you'll be fine. I can't imagine you will still be contagious at this stage, but take some hand sanitiser with you anyway and use it ostentatiously before touching any communal food, so that your friends don't need to worry.
posted by lollusc at 7:01 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I'd go. It wouldn't make sense to me to miss a fun thing just because I was a little bit sick. It's just a cold, and assuming you have a normal functioning immune system, the very worst that could happen is you might slightly extend the length of your cold. I say go for it!
posted by a strong female character at 9:04 PM on June 14, 2016

Thanks, all! You've convinced me to go for it :)
posted by st elmo's fire at 3:14 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Salary (Re-)Negotiation?   |   Attorney ethics question Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.