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Why Do You Cough After Running

by Lyndon Langley
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Why Do You Cough After Running

Why Do You Cough After Running

It’s happened to everyone at one time or another: Your run has just begun when you feel the telltale tickle in your throat. It could be subtle at first, but soon it becomes more pronounced as you jog along. In fact, you may not even notice it until you’ve reached the end of your workout. But what causes this uncomfortable sensation? Typically, a transient cough after running is caused by a hyperreactive response (from the lungs) to an increase in breathing rate triggered by physical activity like exercise. This typically goes away within minutes once the pace slows down. If the coughing persists beyond a few minutes, though, there are other potential causes for concern.
“Hyperreactivity can also occur from allergies, sinus problems, asthma, GERD [gastro-esophageal reflux disease] or infections,” says Dr. Michael Goldberg, M.D., chief medical officer of NetDoctor.com. “The most common cause of persistent coughs after exercising is airway inflammation, which usually results from allergies.”
An allergic reaction often begins with a classic case of hay fever symptoms, including watery eyes, sneezing, scratchiness in the nose and throat, dry mouth and congestion. However, if these symptoms aren’t present, then something else must be causing the problem. And since some allergy medications help decrease coughing, a doctor should investigate the issue further before giving up on the possibility of an allergy. “Some people develop post-exercise bronchospasm, meaning their airways constrict due to spasms of muscles in the walls of their small airways, leading to shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness,” explains Dr. Erstein. He adds that about 2 percent of runners experience post-exercise asthmalike symptoms every now and then, but they’re typically milder than those experienced during an actual attack.
If you do decide that you have an allergy, however, you’ll need to see a specialist who can prescribe medication accordingly. The treatment depends on the severity of the condition. For example, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you might receive antihistamines and decongestants. Those suffering from perennial allergies might get corticosteroids. Some patients are prescribed inhalers, while others go through surgery to remove polyps in the lining of their nasal passages. Of course, these treatments vary depending on each individual patient’s specific situation.
But allergies aside, other conditions can also trigger coughing fits. Here are three of them.
Asthma/COPD: Asthma affects over 1 million Americans, mostly adults, according to the American Lung Association. COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both diseases affect the lungs’ ability to breathe normally. “Exercising helps control asthma symptoms, so it would seem that running should be beneficial for someone with asthma,” says Dr. Goldberg. “However, moderate exercise can aggravate lung function in people with COPD, so I wouldn’t recommend this for them unless under close medical supervision.”
GERD: Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD) refers to the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, which causes irritation. One of the main triggers is eating too much spicy food, fatty foods, alcoholic beverages and smoking cigarettes. While we all know that these habits are bad for us, sometimes it can be difficult to stop them altogether. So, instead of cutting out certain foods immediately, try taking antacids right after meals to relieve the pressure in your stomach. Then wait 20 minutes and take your next meal. Over time, your body will adjust and no longer crave that extra pick me up. Another option is chewing sugarless gum, which stimulates saliva production, thereby neutralizing the effects of stomach acids. Finally, avoid lying down right after consuming alcohol because gravity can intensify the effects of the fluid coming back up; if necessary, lie sideways with your head propped up on pillows.
Other Causes: Sometimes, other illnesses or injuries can lead to coughing spells, especially respiratory issues like pneumonia. If you find yourself coughing nonstop for days on end, seek medical attention. A persistent cough can indicate a serious health problem.
So whether you’re experiencing a temporary bout of coughing or a long-term illness, don’t let it interfere with your lifestyle or prevent you from doing things you enjoy. Take care of yourself, stay hydrated and follow your doctor’s instructions. A little bit of rest and relaxation can make all the difference between feeling miserable and being happy to go out again tomorrow!

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