Do you get an annoying runny nose when exercising – especially outdoors? This is a common problem, especially among runners. What causes this problem and what can you do about it?
Runny Nose When Exercising
The most common cause of a runny nose when exercising is a condition called exercise-induced rhinitis. According to one survey published in the journal Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, exercise-induced rhinitis, or inflammation of the nasal passages, occurs in up to 40% of athletes. This condition is slightly more common in people who have other allergies, but it can be a problem for anyone regardless of their allergic history. Needless to say, it can make exercise a less than pleasant experience.
In some cases, a runny nose when exercising comes from exposure to allergens in the air. This is particularly true of people who exercise outdoors. Certainly people with seasonal allergies who run outside in the spring and summer are more susceptible to a runny nose – but not all cases of runny nose when exercising are due to seasonal allergies.
Exercising causes changes in the nervous system that can trigger runny nose symptoms in people with exercise-induced rhinitis. Exposure to humidity and extremes in temperature can also cause blood vessels in the nose to dilate. When a person runs or exercises in cold weather, the cold air causes these vessels to expand, which increases the flow of nasal secretions and causes an annoying runny nose.
How to Stop a Runny Nose When Exercising
If you have seasonal allergies, take your workout indoors during allergy season. If you have to exercise outdoors, ask your doctor about allergy medications such as antihistamines and nasal steroids that can help control your symptoms. It also helps to eat more foods containing the natural flavonoid called quercetin. Some studies show that quercetin-rich foods, such as apples and red onions, reduce the release of histamine, the chemical responsible for the sneezing and runny nose allergy sufferers’ experience.
If you run outdoors in the cold, wear a stocking cap that covers your face and nose to reduce exposure to cold air – and train yourself to breathe through your mouth more when working out. Exercise-induced rhinitis usually worsens with higher intensity workouts, so lighten up a little when your nose starts to run.
The Bottom Line?
A runny nose when exercising isn’t uncommon, but if you don’t get relief, see your doctor. Sometimes structural abnormalities such as chronic sinusitis or nasal polyps can cause a persistent runny nose – and it’s important to rule these out.
Medscape.com. “Exercise-Induced Rhinitis May Be Common in Athletes”
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.