Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates
For Aspetar clinical guidelines for safe return to sport during the COVID-19 pandemic, please Click Here

Athlete Questions

Questions and answers

Yes. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is released into the air (it gets airborne) when people sing, cough, speak, shout, and even just breathe in and out. You can get infected when the virus enters your body through your nose or mouth when you breathe in (‘inhale’ the virus-filled aerosol that was exhaled by someone with Covid-19). Remember – most people with Covid-19 do not have symptoms of the disease but can still spread it!

Transmission of the virus almost always occurs indoors. When people with COVID-19 sing, talk, shout, cough, sneeze or exhale, virus-filled ‘respiratory aerosols’ can travel through the air for long distances (for long distances!) – especially indoors and in poorly ventilated environments.

Therefore you should:

  • wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask (see question 13)
  • keep a physical distance of 2 meters
  • encourage people to go outdoors
  • reduce time spent indoors
  • avoid crowds
  • ensure that indoor spaces are well-ventilated (open doors and windows; don’t use air-conditioning)

Another way of possibly transmitting the virus is when heavier droplets (filled with the virus) land on furniture, door handles, and other surfaces. Here the virus can stay alive for up to a few days. When you touch these things and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you can infect yourself. You can now further spread the virus by touching other people or surfaces with your contaminated hands.

You must cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and keep a distance from other people (called physical distancing). This is also why you should wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with water and soap or sanitizer with an alcohol content of more than 60%, and clean objects and surfaces regularly

The virus is too small to see with the naked eye.

The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is released into the air (it gets airborne) when people sing, cough, speak, shout, and even just breathe in and out. You can get infected when the virus enters your body through your nose or mouth when you breathe in (‘inhale’ the virus-filled aerosol that was exhaled by someone with Covid-19). Remember – most people with Covid-19 do not have symptoms of the disease but can still spread it.

Transmission of the virus almost always occurs indoors. When people with COVID-19 sing, talk, shout, cough, sneeze or exhale, virus-filled ‘respiratory aerosol’ can travel through the air for long distances– especially indoors and in poorly ventilated environments.

Therefore you should:

  • wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask (see question 13)
  • keep a good physical distance
  • encourage people to go outdoors
  • reduce time spent indoors
  • avoid crowds
  • ensure that indoor spaces are well-ventilated (open doors and windows; don’t use air-conditioning!)

Another way of possibly transmitting the virus is when heavier droplets (filled with the virus) land on furniture, door handles, and other surfaces. Here the virus can stay alive for up to a few days. When you touch these things and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you can infect yourself. You can now further spread the virus by touching other people or surfaces with your contaminated hands.

You must cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and keep a distance from other people (called physical distancing). This is also why you should wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with water and soap or sanitizer with an alcohol content of more than 60%, and clean objects and surfaces regularly.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever (temperature >37.8°C), tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, blocked nose, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not like cancer. Like the common cold, it is a disease (infection) caused by a virus. See question number 14 and 22 about vaccines and treatments.

You can protect yourself from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by:

  • wearing a well-fitting and high-quality mask (see question 13)
  • keeping a physical distance of 2 meters
  • encouraging people to go outdoors
  • reducing time spent indoors
  • avoiding crowds
  • ensuring that indoor spaces are well-ventilated (open doors and windows; do not use air-conditioning)
  • getting vaccinated


HANDWASH INSTRUCTION VIDEO World Health Organisation (WHO)

Yes—it can take up to two weeks for the symptoms to appear. When the virus enters your body, it needs time to grow. You can compare it to a plant: you put the seed in the earth but nothing visible happens straight away. It takes a little bit of time to grow and be visible. The same applies to this virus. It needs time to grow before you have symptoms of being sick. Unfortunately, people can already spread the disease in this period before they even know that they are sick.

  • Wash your hands:
    • Before preparing and eating food
    • After sneezing or coughing
    • After using the toilet
    • And at other times during the day.
  • Try to wash your hands at least ten times per day. Wash with water and soap, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Physical distancing: Keep at least 2 metre distance from others at all times: this also means not shaking hands, hugging or kissing other people
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue away into a waste bin and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue – sneeze into your elbow or upper sleeve
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose

And ask/instruct others to do the same.

Make sure you follow the instructions specific for your country. If you live in Qatar and you think you might have the virus, you should call the Ministry of Public Health COVID-19 Hotline: 16000.

If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care immediately

Most countries request that you call first before you go into a medical facility

  • You will then receive the correct instructions and it will allow them to prepare for your arrival
  • This helps to prevent overloading healthcare facilities
  • In Qatar: call the Ministry of Public Health COVID-19 Hotline: 16000

Yes, you can train as normal. A healthy lifestyle will help your body fight infections. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. You must, however, adapt your exercise to comply with the current COVID-19 measures in your country of residence. These measures may include regular testing programs for elite athletes and wearing face masks. Physical distancing and hand hygiene remain important: Keep at least 2 metre distance from others as far as possible. If you suffered from COVID-19 it is best to seek medical advice before resuming your normal training program.

No, you cannot boost your immunity; you can only protect or maintain the immunity you have. A healthy lifestyle will help you achieve this. Healthy eating, exercising and getting enough sleep are all part of a healthy lifestyle. Click on the following links if you want more information on healthy eating and sleep hygiene . It is also important to stay active during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Exercises for athletes during self-quarantine

No, eating specific foods or taking supplements will not prevent you from getting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). But, healthy eating can protect and maintain your immune system. So, if you are not eating healthily, now might be a good time to start. Read this about a healthy diet.

Yes, you should wear a mask especially indoors when you are close to other people, and there’s an increased risk that you or people close to you might have coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Comply with the current COVID-19 measures in your country/local area. You don’t need to wear gloves.

Wearing a mask should be a normal part of being around other people. Make sure you use, store and clean or dispose of masks properly.

It is important to make sure you wear the right type of mask and that you are wearing it correctly: watch the following video for instructions.

Stay safe by taking some simple precautions when COVID-19 is spreading through your community. These are physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue and getting vaccinated.

Wearing gloves is not recommended.

You have a vaccine before you get sick and a treatment after you get sick:

  • A vaccine helps your immune system to prevent you from getting sick
  • A treatment will help manage the symptoms (for instance paracetamol for lowering fever) or will cure you (for instance antibiotics for a urinary tract infection)

There is currently no vaccine or curative treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but there are treatments to help manage the symptoms.

Yes, you can get the infection twice. Infection will give you some immunity, but this doesn’t last forever. If you are having symptoms of Coronavirus infection, even if you have had it before, you should get a test. This is also a good reason to continue the social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing we have all got used to.

We do not know how COVID-19 affects pregnant women.

Pregnant women can protect themselves from infection by carefully following the advice of:

  • Washing your hands:
    • Before preparing and eating food
    • After sneezing or coughing
    • After using the toilet
    • And at other times during the day.
  • Try to wash your hands at least ten times per day. Wash with water and soap, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Physical distancing: Keep at least 2 metres distance from others at all times: this also means not shaking hands, hugging or kissing other people
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue away into a waste bin and wash your hands. IF you do not have a tissue – sneeze into your elbow or upper sleeve
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose

If you become severely ill with COVID 19, your sperm may be affected. It is not clear whether this is temporary or not. If you are unsure or concerned about this, you should consult your doctor who will be able to carry out the relevant tests.

Short answer

If you had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 during their infectious period, you should home-quarantine, otherwise you do not need to home-quarantine.

Close contact is:
  • Living in the same household
  • Spending more than 2 hours in the same room
  • Sitting within 2 rows on a flight, bus or train for more than 2 hours
  • Being face-to-face (less than 2 metres apart) for more than 15 minutes

This advice only applies if you had close contact with someone who had coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during the period that they can spread the virus, otherwise known as the infectious period.

It is not clear exactly how long the infectious period for COVID-19 lasts, this will vary from person to person, but we do know that people are most infectious (most likely to spread the virus) when they have COVID-19 symptoms, the commonest of which are fever, dry cough and tiredness. 

Research shows that the virus can be detected in patients before they show symptoms and even after they have recovered (no longer showing symptoms). However, there is currently no agreement on how long before showing symptoms individuals are infectious and how long they are infectious after they recover.

It seems that the infectious period lasts from 48 hours before someone shows symptoms until their test for the virus that causes COVID-19 becomes negative.  

Close contact is:

  • Living in the same household
  • Spending more than 2 hours in the same room
  • Sitting within 2 rows on a flight, bus or train for more than 2 hours
  • Being face-to-face (less than 2 metres apart) for more than 15 minutes

If you had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 during their infectious period and are:

  • NOT having flu-like symptoms (fever, tiredness and a dry cough), you should home-quarantine; read all about home-quarantine here
  • having flu-like symptoms (fever, tiredness, a dry cough, or shortness of breath), you should call 16000.

COVID-19 measures differ from country to country. In countries where you are allowed to walk, run or cycle outside, you should follow the recommendations for physical distancing by keeping at least 2 metres between you and other people.  

This is because the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads through tiny droplets that form when you cough, sneeze or exhale and these tiny droplets can travel through the air and land on anything within 2 metres.  

That is why keeping a physical distance of at least 2 metres apart is recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But this is only true when you are indoors and standing still, or outdoors in calm weather when there is no wind.  

As many cyclists and wheelchair-using athletes will know, if you are moving at speed the air behind you behaves differently and a ‘slipstream’ is formed. If you are immediately behind someone that walks, runs, or cycles, the droplets that form when they cough, sneeze and exhale, get caught in the slipstream and can travel through the air much further than 2 metres. Similarly, if someone is immediately behind you when you cough, the droplets could travel much further behind you than 2 metres. 

That is why we advise that when you are walking, running or cycling near someone else, you should keep a greater distance than the 2 metres for when you are standing near them. We suggest 4-5 metres when walking, 10 metres when running and 20 metres when cycling fast. The slipstream is confined to a narrow space directly behind the runner or cyclist, so the risk can be further reduced by not exercising directly in front or behind someone else.

The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread easily and quickly between people, potentially making a lot of people ill at the same time.

Some people with COVID-19 will need to be admitted to hospital; some will need treatment in an intensive care unit.

If many people get COVID-19 at the same time, the number of people needing care in hospital or in an intensive care unit may become higher than the number of beds available.

Staying at home as much as possible and practicing physical distancing makes it more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person. This will slow down the number of people getting ill and mean that the peak (maximum) number of people being ill at the same time will be lower.

This allows hospitals to deal better with the amount of sick people and can potentially save many lives. It is likely that many people will still be infected or get sick in the foreseeable future, but this will be spread out more over time, giving hospitals a chance to treat everyone who needs to be treated. This is called “flattening the curve” and is explained in the diagram below.

The various measures that governments have taken (such as physical distancing and closure of schools, restaurants and shops), are intended to slow down the spread of COVID-19, to allow hospitals to be able to treat everyone who needs treatment. 

If the governments want to make the measures stricter, reduce or end them, they need to know the effect of the current measures. But the effect of the measures is not immediately visible. This is because people who catch the virus will not get ill straight away. The period between catching the virus and showing signs of illness is called the incubation period. For COVID-19, this is between 1 and 14 days, which means that to see the effect of the measures you need to wait at least two weeks.  

Measures should only be reduced if the spread of COVID-19 is slow enough to allow hospitals to treat everyone who needs treatment. 

When a government knows the results of the measures in their country, they may decide to continue or reduce them. Measures will probably be reduced step-by-step. For instance, schools may be allowed to open again, before the same happens for restaurants and shops. Governments might also use digital monitoring, for instance through smartphone applications, to detect people who have had close contact with an infected person so that they can be tested/isolated.

We do not know what will happen when measures are reduced, or when this will happen because it depends on the ongoing close monitoring of new cases, hospital admissions and capacity.

There are two main types of treatments for diseases and illnesses:  

  1. Treatments that cure you (for instance, antibiotics for a urinary tract infection, which is caused by bacteria, not viruses)  
  2. Treatments that help manage symptoms (for instance, paracetamol for lowering fever)  

There are currently no treatments to cure COVID-19, but there are treatments to help manage the symptoms.   

If you are mildly ill, your body’s immune system will fight the virus and the infection will go away by itself. The main approach in this instance is to prevent the spread of the infection to others. However, you should ensure you are well-hydrated, take adequate rest and may wish to take paracetamol to lower a high temperature.  

If you are more severely ill, you might need admission to hospital for treatment to help manage the more serious symptoms. This will include making sure you have enough oxygen and fluids in your body. Sometimes this needs to be done by supporting your breathing using a ventilator and giving you fluids in to your veins through a cannula. 

The period during which someone who has COVID-19 can spread it to someone else is called the infectious period. It is not clear exactly how long the infectious period for COVID-19 lasts; this will vary from person to person.  We do know that people are most infectious (most likely to spread the virus) when they have COVID-19 symptoms, the commonest of which are fever, dry cough and tiredness. 

Research shows that the virus can be detected in patients before they show symptoms and even after they have recovered (no longer showing symptoms). However, there is currently no agreement on how long before showing symptoms individuals are infectious and how long they are infectious after they recover.

It seems that the infectious period lasts from 48 hours before someone shows symptoms until their test for the virus that causes COVID-19 become negative.  

Your ability to return to normal training and competition depends on your type of sport and the level and type of activity you have been able to maintain while you could not train normally.  

If you have been able to maintain the intensity and frequency of your training but only lost volume, you may proceed with normal training and build up to what you and your coach would consider match or competition fitness.

If you are competing in a highly technical sport (such as gymnastics, diving etc.), you have probably not been able to train your typical skills. So, if you are returning to training and competition in a highly technical sport, it is important to start with training your advanced motor skills (the typical skills you need for your sport).  

If your recent training has lacked intensity, frequency and volume, your cardiovascular fitness strength and skill levels have probably declined and it will take you longer to build back to normal training. A gradual return to training over several weeks is necessary to enhance performance and prevent injury.

You should communicate closely with your coach throughout this period of uncertainty, especially because even athletes within the same sport will have individual variations in their fitness and training requirements. Your coach should be able to provide both sport-specific and general fitness advice to help you return as strong as possible and as safely as possible. 

The recovery from COVID-19 for most people ranges between a few days and 12 weeks. Most athletes will be able to return to their optimum sport performance within a few weeks after they have recovered.

For a small group of people symptoms will last longer. These symptoms can be the result of the COVID-19 infection itself – like acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) or “Long COVID” – or of the treatment of severe COVID-19, for instance after ventilation on the intensive care unit.

ARDS occurs when your lungs become damaged due to fluid leaking into the lungs, which stops you from breathing normally. To help their lungs recover, the breathing of someone with ARDS might be supported using a mechanical ventilator in an intensive care unit.

We know from other diseases that recovering from the lung damage caused by ARDS takes a long time and sometimes people will not recover fully. This means that they will have long-term difficulties with breathing and returning to optimum sport performance might not be possible.

Long COVID is a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first contracting COVID-19 and is not related to the seriousness of the infection. We do not yet fully understand why some people develop Long COVID while others don’t, and if or, when people will recover from it. The symptoms include:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Headache
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Dizziness on standing
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities

If you are experiencing long term symptoms after your recovery of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.

We do not yet know the long-term effects of COVID-19 on people who become infected. 

Most people become mildly ill and are likely to recover fully within a few weeks.

However, the outlook is much less certain for the small group of people who become more severely ill and develop complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS occurs when your lungs become damaged due to fluid leaking into the lungs, which stops you from breathing normally. To help their lungs recover, the breathing of someone with ARDS might be supported using a mechanical ventilator in an intensive care unit.  

We know from other diseases that recovering from the lung damage caused by ARDS takes a long time and sometimes people will not recover fully. This means that they will have long-term difficulties with breathing. 

On a positive note, athletes are generally young and healthy, so they have a lower risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19.   

Ibuprofen is useful in bringing down a high temperature and help the muscle aches that can occur with COVID-19 infection, and can be used safely. It does not put you at any greater risk of infection or more serious infection. Of course, any medication can have side effects, and you should check with your pharmacist if you have any doubts whether you might possibly get any of these.

You cannot tell the difference between a headache caused by COVID-19 and a headache due to many other causes. If you have COVID-19 you will likely experience other symptoms as well: fever, dry cough, tiredness, body aches, shortness of breath, sore throat, diarrhea, runny or blocked nose and a new loss of taste or smell. On the other hand, there are many different causes of headache and you should seek medical advice if you experience a headache that is unusual for you, especially one that might be severe or persistent. 

If you think you might have COVID-19, contact 16000 in Qatar. 

When you get an infection, your immune system will fight the infection by making antibodies. When someone recovers from the infection, they still have these antibodies in their blood and doctors sometimes give the part of the blood (called plasma) that contains these antibodies to severely ill people to help their immune system to fight the infection.

Because the antibodies are infection-specific (they only work on a specific infection), people with COVID-19 can be helped by plasma from other people who have already had the disease, but we do not yet know how effective this is, or how to identify which patients with Covid will benefit from this treatment.

This treatment is now being used in Qatar as well. Read more about it here.

There have been a handful of case reports of COVID-19 in domestic cats and dogs (and one zoo tiger). The affected animals usually have no or very minor symptoms. More recent evidence has shown that transmission can occur between domestic cats, however there is no evidence at this stage that COVID-19 can be transmitted from cats to people although further research is needed. As a precaution, people with pets, including cats, should wash their hands before and after interacting with their animals or handling their litter boxes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic people should prevent their pets from interacting with people or animals outside the household. People who are infectious with COVID-19 should restrict their interaction with pets and other animals, as they would do with other people. 

The risk of getting infected with COVID-19 through surface transmission is low. The most common way to get infected is through aerosol transmission (see questions 1 and 2). You can clean surfaces by using soap and detergent. Disinfection is only necessary when there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours.

As a general rule the virus that causes Covid 19 is able to survive longer on non-porous surfaces than porous surfaces.

Surface

Estimated survival time

Paper

3 hours

Copper

4 hours

Cardboard

24 hours

Plastic

3 days

Stainless steel

3 days

One important aspect to be aware of is that it can be dangerous if any person contracts COVID-19 during the time that they are having surgery or shortly after surgery. This can increase the risk of dying from COVID-19 by tenfold. It is therefore understandable that elective surgeries are being placed on hold until it is safer to do them.

There are two types of surgeries: emergency surgeries and elective surgeries. Elective surgeries are planned and normally not urgent. Because the hospitals in most countries are very busy dealing with patients affected by COVID-19, elective surgeries have been postponed. Emergency surgeries can still take place.

Elective surgeries can take place again when there has been at least a two-week decrease of registered COVID-19 cases, and this is different for each country or region. Several countries have reached or will soon reach this condition, but other factors, such as patient and staff safety, staffing levels and resource availability, are also considered by individual hospitals before resuming elective surgeries.

Elective surgeries will most probably be done in hospitals and clinics that do not treat COVID-19 patients. You must be free of COVID-19 symptoms to be able to undergo surgery and your stay after the surgery will be as short as possible to minimize the risk of getting COVID-19 while in hospital.

You might be concerned that paralympic athletes are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. However, all paralympic athletes are different and your individual risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 depends on your personal disability and health situation. People with an immune system that is not working well or chronic conditions like lung disease, heart conditions, severe obesity, diabetes, liver and/or kidney disease are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

There are no studies on the effect of COVID-19 on paralympic athletes, and no evidence that paralympic athletes have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to the general population.

All athletes should follow their national medical guidelines and that of the World Health Organisation on prevention, and immediately report to local medical authorities in case they develop COVID-19 symptoms.

There is no evidence that the virus causing COVID-19 can spread through the water in pools. Also, if swimming pool water is adequately disinfected with chlorine or bromine, the virus will be inactivated.

It is important that all visitors and staff follow the general rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 recommended by their local authorities.

Individuals should keep a physical distance of at least 2 metres and wear face masks when out of the water. Staff should apply best practice to clean and disinfect the venue.

There is limited but growing evidence that it is safe for pregnant women to have the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe illness (see question 16). Having the vaccine will protect you from severe illness from COVID-19.

When deciding if you want to take the vaccine you should consider:

  • Your risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • Your individual risk of severe illness

If you want to discuss taking the vaccine while pregnant, contact your healthcare provider.