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Two women hunched over trying to catch their breathe after a run next to an outdoor fence.

Is It Normal to Cough After Running?

Coughing after running is a common problem among runners and a symptom of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). Although it’s annoying and uncomfortable, it’s generally not anything to be concerned about. However, it’s helpful to know what causes the coughing, how to stop it, and if there are any ways to prevent it, especially if you run regularly with Vingo.

Is it normal to cough after running?

A male runner on a gravel trail running outside.

Yes, you’re not alone if you have coughing fits after running. Many runners of all abilities experience this. The coughing might start while you’re running or after you’re done, but it’s fairly normal for it to be exercise-induced. The cough may be due to one single cause, or a combination of factors could be the culprit. 

What causes coughing after running?

A woman hunched over coughing after her run outside.

Most often, coughing after running isn’t a result of illness; it’s exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), formerly called exercise-induced asthma.1 Sometimes, it’s also referred to as “runner’s cough.” 

This condition occurs when your heart rate increases during a run and you experience a hyperactive response from your lungs. The reaction causes symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

If you experience these symptoms often, you should see your doctor. They may prescribe medication or an inhaler, which you can use before your run to open up your airways and provide some relief.

Coughing after running isn’t always caused by EIB. Other potential causes could include:2

  • Exposure to cold weather: Cold air is very dry, which can dehydrate your lungs and airways, causing symptoms like coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. Wearing a face covering while running outdoors in cold weather can help warm the air before it travels to your lungs and prevent coughing.3
  • Allergies: Running outdoors in an area with a high pollen count can trigger seasonal allergies and symptoms like coughing. To avoid allergy-induced coughing after running, try running during a time of day when the pollen count is lower. Or run indoors with Vingo.
  • Acid reflux: Exercise can exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux and cause coughing. Changing your diet or giving your stomach more time to empty before heading out for a run may help.4
  • Postnasal drip: This constant trickle of mucus from the back of your sinuses can irritate your throat and cause coughing, especially after running outdoors. Wearing a face covering when running outside, drinking more water, or drinking warm liquids like tea can help.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s causing the coughing, and it might be environmental or medical. A doctor can diagnose and treat any issues that may be causing coughing during or after exercise.

How much running causes coughing fits?

A woman hunched over after her run on a trail looking over a big city.

If you suffer from any of the above mentioned issues, any amount of running could potentially make you cough. According to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, it might only take 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity..5 Depending on how often you experience a runner’s cough and its severity, keeping a log of your exercise activities might be a good idea. Take note of when you experience the coughing fits, what physical activities preceded them, and their duration.

How to stop coughing after running

A man stopping mid run, looking down at his feet taking a rest on an outside trail.

If you’re one of the many runners who experience uncomfortable coughing after running, there are several things you can do to get relief.

  • Run indoors with Vingo: Even if you prefer running outside, it might be best to run indoors during certain parts of the year, like when the pollen count is high or when it’s cold out. Indoor running can be just as effective, and it’s even more fun with Vingo because you can explore exciting virtual running routes around the globe with friends or on your own, view important performance metrics, and even bring a virtual dog along with you.
  • Modify your breathing technique: Mouth breathing during exercise can irritate your airways and contribute to coughing. If you tend to breathe through your mouth while running, make a conscious effort to breathe through your nose instead.
  • Warm up before your runs and cool down after: Don’t skip your pre-run warm up! Warm up exercises raise your core temperature and can also help reduce the likelihood of a coughing attack after you run. Taking time to cool down after running can also help prevent breathing symptoms like coughing. A good cool down and warmup should each last about 10 minutes.
  • Wear a face covering: If you decide to run outdoors in the winter or when pollen levels are high, do yourself a favor and wear a face covering. It will warm up the air before it hits your airways, which will help prevent lung irritation and coughing.
  • Take medication: A doctor can help identify the causes of coughing after running and provide prescriptions for inhalers or medicines that may help. You can take an over-the-counter decongestant or antihistamine if your cough results from postnasal drip.
  • Rest: If you’re coughing after running because of a respiratory illness, you should take some time off and give your body a chance to rest and recover. Hopefully, once you return to running, you won’t have issues with a cough anymore.

When to see a doctor

A couple talking to a doctor while the doctor is writing in his notebook.

Runner’s cough could be related to environmental or medical issues, but there’s no single way to prevent it. Following the tips above may help you find a solution that works, but if it remains a consistent or severe issue, it’s best to see a doctor.

Key Takeaways:

Coughing after running is irritating, but it’s common among runners of all experience levels. You may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) if you constantly cough after running. Alternatively, allergies, postnasal drip, dry winter air, or another environmental factor might be the cause. Although running indoors may help alleviate a cough caused by dry, cold air or allergens, when in doubt, it’s always best to see a doctor for a professional opinion.

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Sources:

  1. Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB). (2022, April 18). ACAAI Public Website. https://acaai.org/asthma/types-of-asthma/exercise-induced-bronchoconstriction-eib/ 
  2. Exercise-Induced Asthma: Symptoms, Causes, Tests and Treatment. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4174-exercise-induced-asthma 
  3. American Lung Association. (n.d.). Weather and Your Lungs. https://www.lung.org/blog/weather-and-your-lungs 
  4. 6 Tips to Ease Exercise Heartburn. (2007, September 17). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/features/6-tips-ease-exercise-heartburn 
  5. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. (n.d.). Asthma in Athletes. Retrieved January 5, 2023, from https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/sports-medicine/injuries/asthma 

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