mud runs health risk

In the summer months, when treadmills and gym classes become dull, adventure races provide a fun fitness alternative. These popular outdoor courses often include crawling through mud pits or over military-style hurdles. They’re messy, a great way to cool down, and perfect for a team challenge.

But adventure races aren’t without risks. Days later, you may fall ill with diarrhea and abdominal cramps. What’s wrong?

Bacteria and Viruses in Mud Runs

Many adventure races are in rural areas, nearby or in livestock pastures. Bacteria and viruses from animal feces live in the mud there, including Campylobacter (C. coli), a virus called norovirus, and even E. coli. If ingested through the nose or mouth, these germs can cause intestinal infections and make you ill.

Symptoms may begin within two to five days after exposure, and include:

Protecting Your Health at Adventure Races

Obstacle races are a great way to get in shape. And it’s good to be excited about a new challenge, as long as you understand the risks and take precaution. Here are a few ways to avoid bacterial or viral infections from mud runs:

  • Try to avoid ingesting any mud or surface water during the obstacle run
  • Rinse off as soon as possible after the race
  • Don’t touch your nose, eyes, or mouth before washing
  • Use soap and clean water on your hands and face before eating

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll reduce your chances of contracting infection from any germs you encounter.

Post-Race: Recovering at Home

What do you do if you contract an infection, anyway? Luckily, most cases resolve themselves within a few days and can be treated with home care. Be sure to:

Kevin M. Wong, MD, Westmoreland Family Medicine – UPMC, recommends that individuals suffering from infection eat yogurt.

Active culture yogurt may help repopulate good bacteria,” says Dr. Wong. Eating yogurt can help your body bounce back from negative effects of the germs.

In some extreme cases, certain types of E. coli can cause more severe reactions: anemia, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and kidney failure. These symptoms are only present in 6 to 9 percent of E. coli 0157:H7 infections, and usually affect people with weaker immune systems. Call a doctor if symptoms are severe or do not resolve within a week.

For more information, or to find a primary care doctor, visit the UPMC Primary Care website or call 1-855-676-UPMCPCP.