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Can My Child Play With A Cold?

by  Leonard Marks, MD

Common question asked of Pediatricians are:
When can my child return to school?
Can my child play sports (in this case soccer)?

The answer to this question is: “Yes.”

Seriously, there are two criteria: First, the child should not be contagious; and secondly, he should be able to function at a near to normal level with a minimum amount of discomfort.

As a general rule, if a child is running a fever he is contagious and probably has been for 24 hours prior to the onset of the fever. Usually as the temperature returns to normal the spewing of germs all over the environment decreases. Obviously if there is profuse coughing, difficulty breathing, significant pain, diarrhea or vomiting the child should stay home. Otherwise, full activities can resume.

You, the coach, will need to make observations and react accordingly. Coughing ones’ guts out after exercise is not healthy. This child should not be playing. Obviously, if the child appears woozy or lightheaded, he must rest. As always, ensure lots of water. In the summer, make sure the returning child can take a break in the shade. For younger children who are returning after an illness, I like to have a parent available at practice to care for him if he cannot handle the rigors of practice.

Often I am asked if it is safe to play with a mild sore throat, cough or stuffy nose. In general if there is no fever my answer is yes. Playing will not make them worse, in fact most of us have played with mild colds and feel much better during and after the practice or game. Adrenaline and endorphins can have positive effects.

Dr. Leonard Marks

Dr. Leonard Marks is a specialist in Pediatrics and a Fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics - Sutter North Medical Foundation. He coached the Marysville High School Varsity Soccer team for 21 seasons and was named the Sacramento-San Joaquin Section Model Coach of the Year in 2010.