Coughing After Running: Everything You Need to Know
If you have noticed that you seem to cough after running, cycling or a challenging HIIT workout, you are not alone. Some runners have even coined a term for it, “track hack.” This is because for some people, the post-run cough seems particularly noticeable when they are engaging in a challenging track workout. Why does this cough happen? How long does coughing after running last? Is it a sign of some type of problem? Is there something you can do to prevent it? Excellent questions that deserve answers!
Why Do I Have a Cough After Running?
As stated, coughing after running is actually quite common. Before you jump to the conclusion that you are sick if you get the post-run cough, think about when and how badly the symptoms surface. If you aren’t coughing before the workout but it sets in shortly after, likely the running is the culprit.
Do A Self Assessment
Prior to assuming that your cough is exercise-induced, most physicians would encourage you to do a quick self-assessment. Do you have any other symptoms or is the cough the only one? Is there any fever present? Difficulty breathing? A tickle in your throat? Chest congestion? A runny nose?
The first thing to know is that if you have a cold, allergy or other symptoms, exerting yourself can make the symptoms worse for a short time. That’s not to say you shouldn’t run if you have any symptoms at all; rather, that you should always be doing a self-check to be aware of what your body is feeling at any given time.
The quality of the air where you are running can have an impact as well. If you live someplace with terrible traffic, for example, you are bound to breathe in pollutants when you run outdoors. Other athletes have wildfires running rampant which also impacts the quality of the air they are breathing in.
If you find yourself struggling to breathe and coughing a lot post-workout and you believe the air quality where you are running could be the problem, consider trying a run indoors. If you do the same type of workout (speed work, for example) and the coughing does not occur, you have potentially found your problem.
For some runners, cold weather can also cause coughing post-run. Running outdoors in cold, dry air can cause your lungs to trigger a cough response. This is because the air is much drier than the air in your lungs already.
You may find it helpful to breathe through a buff or some type of mouth cover when running outside in cold weather. However, many runners find that if they slowly acclimate to weather by running outside as the seasons progress, they can alleviate the impact that cold weather has on their breathing and coughing.
If you are prone to heartburn, you may find that acid reflux is the culprit causing you to cough when you run or engage in another form of exercise that gets your heart pumping, causing you to breathe hard. An over the counter acid reduction drug could do the trick for you to end this problem.
Another potential solution is to avoid foods that cause acid reflux in you. For many people, eating a spicy meal the night before a run can cause heartburn.
Ever notice that your nose runs more when running outside than when engaging in other activities? This seems especially true when it is a little chilly (or downright cold!) outside.
That drip, drip, drip of mucus running down your throat can cause a sore throat as well as, you guessed it, a cough.
For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, this is often the culprit. If you have allergies that are much more pronounced during some times of the year, you may find yourself experiencing more post-run cough than normal. Some runners even report then can’t stop coughing after running! Especially during high allergy season.
Although it isn’t most runners’ favorite solution, some find taking to the treadmill on especially high pollen days is helpful. If you do not have treadmill access, or if you just hate running inside, a low dose of an allergy medication might help alleviate the post-run cough.
In some areas, the allergens in the air are so bad runners find themselves running with buff or another mouth cover. In addition to that, wearing a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses that wrap around can keep allergens from irritating your eyes.
If you have bad seasonal allergies you can also consider just slowing down a little to help yourself breathe easy on those high allergen days. This may help prevent some runners cough.
If none of the above things seems to be causing your cough post-run, it might be that your airways are constricted. Known as EIB by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, this construction of the airways is temporary and short-lived.
How Long Does Runner’s Cough Last?
If your runner’s cough is truly caused by running, the cough typically starts within 10-15 minutes of ending the run and usually will subside within an hour. If your cough is caused by one of the other enumerated reasons, the duration of the cough will vary.
Runners with a cold, allergies or asthma may find the cough lasts much longer than someone without these underlying issues.
Can I Prevent It?
There is some solid research out there that states if you take in some caffeine prior to a run it may help prevent exercise-induced coughing. In addition to that, wearing the mouth cover in cold weather or if you have allergies can help.
Resting if you’re sick or taking over the counter medications can be possible solutions to help you, also.
When it comes down to it you need to listen to your body and be smart.