Coughing After Running: Causes, Prevention and Treatment

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Coughing after a run is a frequent condition that affects both athletes and recreational runners. While some may dismiss coughing as a simple side effect of a strenuous workout, there may be more to it, and if you experience it frequently, you should seek medical help at once. This post will go through the most common reasons for coughing after running, as well as our recommendations for prevention and treatment. We’ve also addressed some of the most frequently asked issues about coughing after running. So, whether you’re worried about your coughing or just interested in your scratchy throat, keep reading to find out more about coughing after a run!

Running is one of the most popular cardiovascular exercises for fitness lovers of all abilities. It not only burns calories, strengthens your heart, and increases endurance, but it also lowers your mortality risk. With all of these amazing advantages, you may be wondering why a coughing episode may accompany your outside running adventures.

Is Running with a Cough OK?

When you have a regular workout routine, such as running, you normally don’t want to disrupt it. But what if you’re feeling under the weather and have a cough? It’s ok to run with a cough on occasion, but it’s often in your best interests not to.

When running with a cough is OK?

We recommend the “above the neck/below the neck” judgment criteria in general guidance for exercise and illness:

Above the Neck: You can typically exercise if your indications and symptoms are entirely above the neck. This might include nasal congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, or a dry cough every now and then.

Below the Neck: If your symptoms are below the neck, take a break from running and other forms of activity. Diarrhea, chest congestion, or a hacking or productive cough are all signs of this.

Different kinds of Running Induced coughs

Pay great attention to your cough while deciding if it’s “above the neck” or “below the neck.”

Dry cough: A dry cough produces no mucus or phlegm. Airway irritants are the most prevalent cause. A nonproductive cough is also known as a dry cough. If you have a dry cough every now and then, you’re probably ok to go for a run.

Productive cough: Coughing up mucus or phlegm is considered a productive cough. Consider delaying your run until you have a productive cough interfering with your breathing, especially if your heart rate is high.

What Causes Coughing After Running?

Many of you who are reading this article have probably had a coughing fit after a run. Whether this is a new occurrence or something that has been happening regularly due to your fitness program, it must be handled seriously. You should pay attention to your body and ask yourself, “What causes coughing after running?” While you may not have anything to worry about, and the coughing is just due to allergies or other external reasons, having a chronic cough after running might indicate that you have bronchoconstriction.

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction

You may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction(EIB) if you have no past medical issues but yet have significant coughing after running. Jonathan Parsons, M.D., director of the Ohio State University Multidisciplinary cough program, characterizes EIB in simple words as a temporary constriction of the airways. According to Parsons, EIB promotes wheezing and coughing after running since it is more difficult to get air through these airways and into the lungs.

EIB is far more prevalent than you may believe; it is believed that 8-20% of the general population has EIB, even if they have no past medical issues. These percentages rise to 40-90 percent in those who have additional asthma-related problems. According to a 2009 Ohio State University study, more than 40% of the athletes who took part in the study were uninformed that they had EIB and were not seeking therapy as a result. Separate research discovered that 20-60% of Olympic athletes suffer from EIB, with most of them ignorant of their condition. The fact that this problem is “invisible” is probably what makes it so critical to be able to see and comprehend it.

EIB is difficult to detect and can have major effects on your respiratory system, so it’s critical to investigate more if you’re constantly wheezing and coughing after running. Although there are various advantages to cardio and aerobic exercise, it’s also important to be aware of the drawbacks. Later in this post, we’ll go over some of the causes of EBI, as well as the symptoms to look out for and the treatment options available.

Seasonal Allergies

If you have seasonal allergies, such as hay fever, you may develop a tickly cough after exercising outside in the spring. Many runners report coughing not only after a run but also during running during this season when pollen counts are high. According to the American Lung Association, spring is the most dangerous season for allergy and asthma patients. Here are a few helpful suggestions to help you avoid sneezing and coughing while running your way through the spring season.

  • Before leaving the house, always check the pollen count. On days when the pollen count is lower, you should be able to exercise outside without your allergies bothering you.
  • Consider exercising indoors if the pollen concentration is too high. Go to the gym or use your treadmill. Make every effort to stay inside as much as possible.
  • Take an antihistamine of your choice if you can’t handle the sight of the gym or the notion of the treadmill.

Postnasal Drip

Do you find yourself coughing and gasping after a run in the cold? Do you get phlegm in your throat after running? If you answered yes to both of these questions, post-nasal drip might be the source of your cough. The typical cold, allergies, airborne irritants, and sinus infections can all cause post-nasal drip. It happens when a stream of mucus falls from the nose and into the throat, irritating the throat and leading to a cough. If you cough up phlegm after running, it’s most likely because you’ve been running outside too much. If you have a postnasal drip, we recommend staying inside as much as possible to prevent aggravating your cough.

Acid Reflux

Coughing up mucus after running might indicate acid reflux, which is medically known as laryngopharyngeal reflux. If you have laryngopharyngeal reflux or any other type of acid reflux, the acids in your stomach may churn up in your throat when you exercise, which is why you could cough up mucus after a run. To avoid the beginnings of coughing and the accumulation of mucus, we recommend adopting the following procedures. Request an over-the-counter acid-reduction medicine from your local drugstore. If the over-the-counter medication isn’t working, see your local doctor for more information.

You might attempt to avoid meals that are known to trigger acid reflux the night before your run. Acid reflux can be caused by a variety of meals, including:

  • Onions
  • Mint
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Coffee

Running in the Cold Weather

There’s a reason you’re coughing after running in the cold. When you run outside in the cold, you will inhale air that is drier than the air you currently have in your lungs. Because cold air has less moisture than warm air, inhaling a large volume of it can dry air passages, causing them to shrink and not allow enough air to pass through. Cold/dry air also decreases the amount of heat and water in the lungs, according to a 2018 study published by the National Library of Medicine. As a result, you’ll have a scratchy, dry cough.

The idea that cold weather might trigger heavy coughing after running and other types of exercise is backed up by a 2018 study that indicated that winter sports like snowboarders and skiers are more prone to suffer respiratory problems. According to this study, winter athletes were more likely to suffer bronchoconstriction due to hypothermia damage to the airways caused by cold air. Consequently, if you cough after running in cold weather, it might be due to environmental variables. However, if you continue to exercise in the cold, you risk developing other, more serious respiratory problems.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Coughing can also be caused by vocal cord dysfunction while running or doing other sorts of exercise. When the airways around the vocal cords thicken and don’t open as they should, it’s called vocal cord dysfunction (VCD).

The following are the symptoms of VCD:

  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Tightness of Throat
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Hoarse Voice
  • Voice Changes

While VCD and EIB have several symptoms and medical characteristics in common, they are considered separate illnesses that are both induced by the same stimulant but in distinct ways. Both illnesses are frequently misdiagnosed as the same thing, with the error being discovered during the therapy phase. VCD, like EIB, is easy to overlook; in 2001, research revealed that 12% of active military soldiers had VCD and were ignorant of their medical condition.

On the other hand, VCD happens during exercise, which is a notable distinction between the two disorders. If you have VCD, you will cough when running since this activity is the stimulant that causes the disease. On the other hand, EIB happens after exercise, and if you have it, you’ll cough after going for a run outside. Knowing what your body requires and how exercise affects it is critical; we thoroughly analyzed the necessity of rest days and how many you require.

How Much Running Can Cause Issues of Coughing? 

Even a short run might trigger a coughing attack if you have any of the illnesses listed above. As previously stated, some illnesses, such as EIB and VCD, are more severe than seasonal allergies. It was vital to indicate how much activity might provoke these illnesses for the sake of others’ safety.

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction

EIB can produce a coughing fit after running, as we’ve already covered. You could be thinking to yourself that this happens after a long run or a very fast/hard workout. According to the Ohio State University Multidisciplinary Cough Program, it just takes 10-15 minutes of exertion to activate the disease. If you find yourself coughing a lot after running, sprinting, or swimming, please stop all activity and rest since EIB can be quite harmful during very severe activities.

According to a 2012 study, the benefits of EIB normally start to fade within 30-90 minutes. Use this time to relax and restore your composure; make sure you take several deep breaths before deciding to move your body again; it’s easy to feel anxious in this situation. Please be calm while you seek to resume your normal breathing pattern; further tension may cause your shortness of breath to worsen.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction

VCD can develop at a quicker pace than EIB, according to research. According to a 2016 study, VCD symptoms such as coughing after a vigorous run might appear after just 3-9 minutes of exercise. VCD can be difficult to identify since, unlike EIB, the attacks and symptoms do not linger for lengthy periods; instead, they are brief yet deadly. The findings of this 2008 study, which demonstrated that VCD attacks might last as little as 1-2 minutes, back up this claim. If you keep coughing when running or doing any type of exercise but immediately restore your composure and breathing rhythm, you may have VCD.

How Do I Know It’s Running That’s Causing My Cough?

If you frequently have chest pain and coughing after running, you may be asking how to tell if the condition is caused by running rather than anything else, such as sickness or allergies. When it comes to triggers like pollen allergies, it’s simple to think you’ll have symptoms like a chesty cough after going for a run outside. Similarly, if you see yourself coughing, it’s simple to think that running while suffering from a postnasal drip is the source of your coughing fits.

However, because both VCD and EIB are difficult to diagnose, the simple answer is that you will never know if your coughing after running is due to one of these illnesses. Keeping your lungs healthy with some of the greatest foods for lung health is a terrific alternative. Because many of the symptoms are non-specific, such as coughing, hoarseness, and wheezing, it can be difficult to distinguish between VCD and EIB without the help of a medically qualified specialist.

Listening to your own body, which you know better than anybody, is one approach to determine whether running is the source of your coughing fits. You can rule out allergies such as hayfever if you know you don’t have any, and you can also rule out mucus production if you haven’t been generating any. If you continue to cough heavily after running, there might be a more significant medical problem at hand. This part teaches us that running may cause coughing, whether you get a cough after running in the cold or have a strong cough after running due to VCD or EIB. A variety of factors can cause coughing. However, exercise is almost always a source of coughing.

How coughing after running is diagnosed?

If you’re reading this article to learn how to quit coughing after running, the first step is to get a diagnosis for any of the illnesses listed above. Obtaining a professional diagnosis will enable you to manage your illness appropriately, reducing the chance of chest discomfort and coughing after running. While some of these disorders, such as pollen allergies and acid reflux, are simple to identify, VCD and EIB, as previously indicated, are difficult to diagnose. We’ll go over the diagnosis procedure for each of these problems in this part before moving on to possible therapies for all of the aforementioned illnesses in the following part.


As previously stated, VCD outbursts are brief and transient. A person with VCD may feel breathing difficulties for several minutes after running or exercising, but they will remain asymptomatic during their daily lives. If people with VCD try to get diagnosed when they are asymptomatic, they may not obtain a diagnosis at all or be mistaken with asthma in 22% of instances. According to a 2010 research, clinicians and allergists should check for these three essential characteristics when seeking to identify VCD:

  • Known clinical symptoms of VCD (that we have previously discussed)
  • Laryngoscopic evidence
  • Spirometry evidence

If you meet any of these three requirements, VCD is likely producing a cough after a vigorous run. But what are the differences between laryngoscopic and spirometry tests? Right now, we’ll break them down for you. Spirometry is a test that determines how much air you can inhale and how much and how quickly you can exhale. This test will ask you to blow into a tube, after which a machine will measure and record the length of both your inhalation and exhale.

As previously noted, it is difficult to obtain direct proof of VCD throughout asymptomatic periods of a person’s life. This is also related to the spirometry test, which will not correctly record air movement during VCD episodes if performed during an asymptomatic time. The spirometry test is occasionally combined with activity in front of a medical professional, such as running on a treadmill or riding a stationary exercise bike. This is done to assess how exercise affects your airways; the spirometry test will detect this if your voice cords begin to expand.

The gold standard for VCD testing is a laryngoscopy, which includes inserting a camera into the throat to obtain a close look at your vocal folds and glottis. If these folds are irritated or swollen, an allergist will be able to see for themselves that the vocal cords are restricting airflow and triggering coughing bouts. If you continue to have a chesty cough after running and are thinking about getting tested for VCD, it’s crucial to know about both tests. Laryngoscopy is the most efficient technique of identifying VCD, although it is far more difficult than a spirometry test. Depending on the allergist or doctor you see, one or both tests may be recommended to obtain clear findings.


If you’re coughing after running or other types of general activity and think you could have EIB, here’s what to anticipate throughout the diagnostic process. When you visit an allergist and tell them you think you have EIB, they’ll ask you a series of questions about your medical history and that of your family. This is done to discover whether your family has a history of asthma or other respiratory diseases that might have been passed down to you. The allergist will proceed with the diagnostic procedure like the VCD testing does, which includes a spirometry test. The EIB diagnostic method will also need you to exercise before the allergist to check if your respiratory system reacts as expected; however, the allergist will look at many triggers rather than simply the effects of exercise with the EIB test.

The American Family Physician published an article in 2011 that leads the reader through these many triggers, all of which focus on the environmental origin of EIB. The field-based exercise challenge is one of these tests, in which the allergist asks the patient to run in a setting that might cause a response, such as coughing after running outside. The weather will be recorded, and a spirometry test will be performed both before and after the field-based challenge to evaluate how weather can affect breathing.

Another test is the Eucapnic voluntary hyperpnea test, which is performed to evaluate if the weather influences EIB. If you’ve ever experienced a cough after running in the cold, this is the test for you, but only with your permission. You must intentionally hyperventilate with a mixture of cold and dry air for this diagnostic method to work. A spirometry test will be done both before and after the test to check if EIB has been activated by the cold, similar to the field-based challenge.

Another test is the Eucapnic voluntary hyperpnea test, which is performed to evaluate whether the weather influences EIB. If you’ve ever experienced a cough after running in the cold, this is the test for you, but only with your permission. You must intentionally hyperventilate with a mixture of cold and dry air for this diagnostic method to work. A spirometry test will be done both before and after the test to check if EIB has been activated by the cold, similar to the field-based challenge.

How Can I Prevent and Treat Coughing After Running?

There are several strategies to cure and avoid the many illnesses we’ve addressed, which might explain why you continue to cough after running. As we did with the probable causes section at the start of the article, we’ll divide these preventative and treatment options down into distinct subsections.

Seasonal Allergies 

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, we’ve previously mentioned several measures to take. If you have pollen allergies, remember to follow the steps below:

  • Before leaving the house, always check the pollen count. On days when the pollen count is lower, you should be able to exercise outside without your allergies bothering you.
  • Consider exercising indoors if the pollen concentration is too high. Go to the gym or use your treadmill.
  • Take an antihistamine of your choice if you can’t handle the sight of the gym or the notion of the treadmill.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux can be induced by eating certain meals the night before a run, as previously mentioned. If you’re searching for a way to stop coughing after running, eating these specific foods will help. Acid reflux can be reduced by eating the following foods:

  • Oatmeal
  • Ginger
  • Vegetables
  • Lean Meats
  • Sea Food
  • Egg Whites

Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction

EIB is treated with two drugs that are also used to treat asthma patients. Short-acting inhaled beta2-agonists, and Long-acting inhaled beta2-agonists are the two types of drugs, both of which are inhaled but may also be offered in tablet form.

  • After running, short-acting inhaled beta2-agonists frequently stop symptoms like a tickly cough. These can be given 15-20 minutes before exercise and have been found in research to relieve EIB symptoms for up to 2-3 hours.
  • Long-acting inhaled beta2-agonists, which should be administered 30-60 minutes before exercising, have been shown to relieve EIB symptoms for 10-12 hours.

It may take up to 2-4 weeks before you notice the full impact of inhaled treatments for EIB. They function by assisting in the reduction of bronchial tube edoema and inflammation. If you’re a trained runner, check with your governing body before taking any asthma medicine; they may be able to connect you to a professional who can help you figure out which drug will work best for you in your sport.

Because beta2-agonists may be identified as performance enhancers in various sports, it’s critical to report your prescription. So, if you need to take the drug, make sure you tell the right people so that you may get a medical exemption. If you want to treat EIB in a method that isn’t medication-based, you can attempt the following:

  • Make sure you’ve warmed up adequately. Before beginning a hard workout, we recommend slowly exercising for 15-20 minutes or practicing some helpful flexibility training activities. This will help your body get used to a breathing rhythm while also getting it ready for more hard activities.
  • When exercising, try inhaling via your nose. The air will be warmed before entering your lungs as a result of this.
  • When exercising in chilly weather, wrap a scarf or mask across your face.

Vocal Cord Dysfunction

On the other hand, VCD is treated in a way that you may not expect because it is treated with speech therapy rather than medicine. A properly trained speech-language pathologist will teach you exercises and strategies that will help you lessen VCD symptoms when you get speech therapy for VCD. The pathologist does this by taking you through vocal exercises to lessen throat strain as well as determining your ideal pitch and loudness for speaking.

Improving your voice is an excellent therapy for VCD because it allows you to talk more clearly while also reducing throat discomfort and shortness of breath. Breathing methods, such as relaxed-throat breathing and lower-abdominal breathing methods, are frequently used in this type of speech therapy. These breathing exercises help to relax and open up your upper airways and voice box, allowing for better breathing. The pathologist will also try to teach you about VCD triggers and how to control and respond to your triggers.

When Should I See a Doctor About Coughing After Running?

As previously said, certain reasons, such as post-nasal drip and seasonal allergies, are self-manageable, but if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of EIB or VCD for a long time, schedule an appointment and ask to be sent to a specialist. Similarly, if you’re experiencing symptoms that aren’t connected to EIB or VCD, such as a high temperature or heart palpitations, you should see your doctor right away. Heart health is crucial and one of the most significant aspects of exercise.

Is Coughing Up Blood After Running Related to EIB or VCD?

If you cough up blood after running, you may have a condition known as pulmonary edoema. It is viewed as a respiratory condition, similar to EIB and VCD, and happens after prolonged durations of exertion when fluids are forced into the lungs. Although red blood cells may enter this fluid and be coughed up after exercise, Pulmonary Edema will not impact your breathing pattern, unlike EIB or VCD. However, if you cough up blood that is black and contains food particles, it might be coming from your digestive tract. Both of these diseases necessitate a trip to the doctor, so make sure you handle the blood issue as soon as possible.

Can You Have Asthma be a Reason for Coughing During or After Running?

Yes, you may have asthma and EIB or VCD at the same time. As previously stated, EIB was long thought to be a kind of asthma, and many of the treatments for EIB are similar to those for asthma. Furthermore, EIB can be seen in up to 90% of asthmatic patients whose symptoms may be misdiagnosed or interpreted as asthma episodes. In addition, someone with VCD and asthma might have both conditions at the same time. VCD, unlike EIB, is not treated in the same manner as asthma. Thus if you have both VCD and asthma, you may require two types of treatment, such as an inhaler and voice coaching.

More Tips to prevent coughing after running

The majority of the factors that induce coughing after running may be avoided or managed. With that in mind, here are some of the finest post-run cough prevention tips.

Avoid running in cold weather

Because dry or cold air might produce airway hyperresponsiveness, Erstein recommends running when in warm and humid weather. If you do decide to go outside in the cold, make sure to cover your mouth and nose with a mask or scarf.

Consider running indoors

If you’re coughing after running because of seasonal allergens like pollen, you might want to go indoors and exercise on a treadmill or indoor track. While it’s not ideal — especially when the weather is great – mixing inside and outdoor running might help alleviate allergy issues. Also, be careful to check the air quality before venturing outside. Stay indoors if the pollen count is high.

Use an inhaler

Aside from prevention, albuterol, a short-acting medicine that can temporarily open up the airways, is occasionally used to treat EIB. 15 to 20 minutes before activity. An inhaler should be used.

Wear a face covering

If coughing fits are interfering with your training, you might want to consider using a face mask on your next run. Using a face mask or other covering can help keep the air wet and filter out big particles.

Rest if you’re sick

If you’re coughing due to respiratory disease, we recommend resting from running and instead focusing on stretching or mild weight training to help your body recover.

Use OTC medications

If your cough is caused by postnasal drip, an over-the-counter (OTC) oral decongestant, antihistamine, or guaifenesin that thins the mucus may help. Before using any of these products, talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you’re not sure whether one is right for you.

Will taking time off hurt my fitness level?

You may be concerned that skipping a few days of exercise may result in a drop in performance. Serious runners may be concerned about lowering their VO2 max, which is a measurement of how much oxygen they can carry and utilize during vigorous activity. According to a 1993 published in the American Physiological Society, the first ten days of inactivity result in just a little drop in VO2 max for well-trained athletes.

Every runner and every running scenario is different. As a result, the choice to run with a cough should be made on an individual basis. Consider reducing your distance and intensity if you decide to run after examining symptoms such as the sort of cough you have. Regular exercise is an important aspect of a healthy body’s development and maintenance. Allow your body to lead you. Illness symptoms and indicators are your body’s method of informing you that something is amiss. Consider taking a few days off from running if you experience widespread muscular pains, exhaustion, or a fever. Consult your doctor if the symptoms continue.

A Word From Long Distance Running

Coughing after a run is very frequent and, in most cases, does not signify a serious health issue. However, if you’ve tried at-home remedies like skipping running when the pollen count is high or covering your face with a scarf, you should see a doctor. They’ll be able to assess your health and see if you have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. If you have any worries about your health, don’t hesitate to phone a doctor’s office.

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