With Olympic athletes we also find travel increases risk as does sleep deprivation and of course coming into contact with people who have cold and flu.
In the first instance we simply try to improve hygiene by giving athletes a packet of alcohol hand swipes and instructing them to always wipe hands before eating or drinking! This is one of the most effective ways to reduce probability of infection. Most colds are picked up via our hands from otehrs and things other have touched and we introduce them into our oral system!
Although airborne infection can and does occur it appears the lesser route – some evidence suggests prophylactic use of a nasal block can help – certainly hydration sprays for mouth and nose reduce risk on planes where these membranes dry out.
We do use prophylactic dosing with vitamin C, echinacae and zinc – although there is still no definitive sceince acceptable proof that this works – it sure wont do any harm.
We use probiotics as this does help maintain gut health.
When athletes are under extra training stress or travel we encourage short naps to deal with sleep deprivation and load – this appears to help lessen risk of URTI (upper respiratory tract infection) and like the others we use medical staff assessment, players self assessment and conservative management. We also monitor closely for any secondary bacterial and start antibiotics as soon as we feel that has happened.