With that in mind, I want to give you some insight into how you can reduce your risk of catching a bug and what to do when you come down with something. So here is my motherly advice on how to reduce your risk of catching a bug:
1. Do not drink out of your teammates water bottles.
When I was the strength coach at the University of Western Ontario and I insisted each player have their own marked water bottle, they thought I was nuts. But colds and flu stopped sweeping through the entire team, and within a season or two players wouldn’t think of drinking from someone else’s water bottle.
Now, I appreciate this is a little counter-culture and I can hear some of you saying, “I don’t put my mouth on the bottle” and that is fine – but what about the guy who does put his mouth on the bottle and then you come along and squirt all his germs down your throat? Ugh.
So, if you are not willing to go with individual water bottles, then at least make sure if there is someone on your team with a cold that they have a bottle that only they drink out of.
2. Wash your water bottles between practices and games.
I am guilty of it too – that water bottle goes back in the hockey bag and at the next practice or game you just pull it out, refill it and away you go. Probably not the best strategy. Wash it with hot soapy water.
3. Wash your hands after you get home from the rink.
There are a lot of germs floating around the locker rooms, showers, etc – just as there are in other public facilities – so give your hands a good wash when you leave the rink.
Our rinks have waterless hand cleanser near the exits so you can get a squirt on your way out the door.
I am not a germ-o-phobe at all. There are germs everywhere and I think if you are going to get a bug you are likely going to get it, but these strategies will at least reduce your risk.
Now for what to do if all that fails and you are feeling under the weather.
We have all heard stories of the NHL players who play in the Stanley Cup final while having a 104-degree fever and diarrhea and if you are like me, you imagine how awful that must be. Most of you are not playing in the Cup final this week, so let’s look at a routine week when you are feeling under the weather:
• If your symptoms are mostly in your head – not in the psychological sense, but if you mostly have the sniffles and sinus congestion but no fever – then head to practice, training or the game.
Chances are you will actually feel a little better once you get moving around. If you actually feel worse once you get moving around, then you should sit out.
Make sure you have your own water bottle and avoid contact like shaking hands, etc. with your teammates.
• If your symptoms have gone into your chest (like a chest cough or if you are coughing up yellowy mucus – gross I know), then you should sit out. Exercising with an infection in your chest can put you at increased risk of more serious illnesses such as pneumonia or even infections that can, in rare cases, affect the heart itself.
• If you have a fever, stay home until the fever is gone – your body needs its energy to fight the infection.
So I hope that will help you avoid getting a bug in the first place and get over one quickly if you do catch one.
I know there will be games where you just simply have to play, but take this advice during the rest of the season when you can afford to put your health first.