COVID-19 Information

We're here to keep you informed, and care for your health. MultiCare facilities are open for all patients. COVID-19 Resource Center

< >

When to take a sick day from running (and when to stick it out)

Posted on May. 31, 2017 ( comments)

The 45th annual Sound to Narrows is coming up June 10. Register today.

Your alarm goes off. But as you try to lift your head off the pillow, it’s as if it’s full of lead. Your cheekbones are throbbing and you can’t stop sneezing. You hit snooze and wonder if you should log your miles that morning or take a rest day.

An important part of any successful training block, and staying active in general, is knowing when to push through and when you’re pushing yourself too hard. It is a delicate balance, and aside from years of trial and error it can help to know some key differences between something banal, like allergies, and something more serious, like a sinus infection. It’s also crucial to know red flags you shouldn’t push through.

Spring blooms

If you’ve suffered seasonal allergies you know when know the signs of sinus, er, I mean spring. But allergies can present later in life or be dependent on what’s blooming. They are surprising in their severity. We asked MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care physician Jillian Weissman, MD, for the key differences between allergies and sinus infections to look out for.

Sinus Infection

Seasonal Allergies



Yellow/Green Nasal Discharge

Clear Discharge


Watery Eyes


Itchy Throat/Ears



Facial Pain





There are two kinds of sinus infections, Weissman explains.

“Sinus infections can be either viral or bacterial,” she says. “If it's viral it should start improving within 10 days. If it's bacterial, it can last greater than 10 days and will likely require antibiotics.”

Allergy meds

While allergy symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, they are usually easy to treat. An over-the-counter medication such as Claritin 24-hour can be a morning staple that saves your sanity and training block. No need to cancel that run!

As for the sinus infection, or other ailments, the best rule is an old standby: If your symptoms are isolated to the neck and up (so sinus pressure, watery eyes) you’re usually in the clear to continue training. But move that workout or long run back a few days so you don’t push it too hard and end up sicker. Also, make recovery a bigger priority than normal, drink lots of fluids and get extra sleep.

If your symptoms are from the neck down (fever, chest heaviness, cough, chills, aches) take at least a day off. Weissman recommends that you “avoid strenuous physical activity until feeling 90 percent better.”

Short walks are fine, if fresh air feels good, but do not push it.

Weissman also advises, “See your doctor if you have had cold symptoms for greater than 10 days. Other times to see your health care provider include fevers that won’t resolve with over-the-counter medications or inability to keep any food/water down.”

Listen to your body. It’s cliché advice, but when done right it’s incredibly powerful. When you know when to push through and when to back off, running will never run you down.

About The Author

Sarah Robinson Sarah Robinson

Sarah Robinson is a runner, mom, brand storyteller and writer living and training in Tacoma. She has been running and racing for over 20 years and was a 2016 Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon with a PR of 2:42:36. She has raced and won Sound to Narrows once, and remembers it as one of the toughest (and most fun) courses she’s raced.

More stories by this author
View all articles