Is Coughing After Running Normal?

Running can boost your cardiovascular health and may even help you live longer. However, even in healthy individuals, running can cause you to cough. This is especially common in cold weather. 

This article explains why you may cough after exercise and why it’s more common when you run in the cold. It also covers remedies for these coughing attacks and tips on when to seek medical help for your cough. 

Woman running in cold weather

 

Val Thoermer/EyeEm/Getty Images 

What Causes You to Cough After Running 

One of the most common causes of coughing after running is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or EIB. This condition affects up to 20% of the general population and up to 90% of people with asthma. It's so closely connected to asthma, EIB used to be called exercise-induced asthma

If you have EIB, you might experience coughing or wheezing after running. Some people have additional symptoms like chest tightness or burning lungs. Symptoms usually start between five and 20 minutes after you start exercising, and they last for about an hour. In some people, symptoms of EIB don’t start until the exercise is finished and the airways begin to warm up again.

Healthcare providers believe that the increased breathing rate and mouth breathing during exercises like running can irritate the airways. That leads to the symptoms of EIB. The symptoms are often worse during cold weather since cold, dry air itself can irritate the airways.

In addition to EIB, running can also cause exercise-induced rhinitis, or nasal irritation. This can lead to post-nasal drip, which might make you cough. 

How to Stop Coughing Attacks After a Run 

Although post-run coughing can be uncomfortable and annoying, it should not stop you from exercising. Exercise is important to health, especially for people with asthma.

Instead, you should talk with your healthcare provider and experiment with lifestyle changes that can help ease symptoms or prevent EIB or exercise-induced rhinitis.

Lifestyle Changes 

Simple changes to your workout routine can help you stop coughing after your runs. To reduce symptoms and prevent coughing:

  • Run indoors on days when the air is particularly cold and dry.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to reduce mouth breathing.
  • Wear a loose-fitting scarf or face covering when running outside. This will help warm the air you inhale before it enters your lungs. 
  • Warm up and cool down for 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning and end of your workout. 

Medication

If you frequently cough after you exercise, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider. This is particularly important if you have asthma. Coughing after running can be a sign that asthma isn't well controlled and that your treatment plan needs to be adjusted.

Your healthcare provider might recommend asthma treatments, including controller medications, which are taken daily, and rescue medication, which is used only when you begin to experience symptoms. 

If You Have a Lingering Cough

EIB usually resolves within an hour. If your cough lasts longer than that, you might be dealing with a different condition. Common causes of cough, like viral infections, can lead to coughing for up to three weeks. 

For lingering coughs, you should see your healthcare provider because it may be a sign of an underlying or chronic condition. You may need a prescription treatment like an inhaler and other medication, or you may need to make lifestyle changes to help ease your cough. 

If you experience trouble breathing, facial swelling, or any other distressing symptoms, call your doctor or 911 immediately. 

Summary

Coughing after running is common, even in people who are fit and healthy. This is due to EIB, a condition where exercise causes the airways to become irritated. Cold air can make that irritation worse.

Exercising indoors, wearing a scarf, and warming up properly can reduce symptoms of EIB. You should see a healthcare provider if you have asthma and cough after running or if your cough persists for more than an hour after exercise and lingers for more than three weeks. 

A Word From Verywell

Having a coughing fit after you go for a run can make you feel out of shape. However, it’s not an indication of your fitness. Especially in cold weather, running can irritate the airways, leading to coughing. However, exercise is still important, so talk with your doctor about lifestyle changes and treatments to help you manage or prevent post-run coughing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does exercise-induced asthma go away on its own?

    Exercise-induced asthma usually resolves within an hour of a cough starting. However, coughing during and after exercise can be a sign of poorly controlled asthma, so if you have asthma and cough during exercise you should talk to your healthcare provider.

  • Is it possible to be allergic to running?

    It’s not possible to be allergic to running, but it’s common for running to irritate your airways, especially in cold weather. Many runners breathe through their mouths, resulting in cold, dry air reaching the lungs. That can cause the lung to constrict, which can make you cough or wheeze. Adjusting your exercise routine can help prevent this. 

  • When should you worry about coughing after running?

    Coughing after you go for a run is common, but occasionally it's a real cause for worry. If you have asthma, this type of coughing could be a sign that your treatments need to be adjusted. In addition, any time that you have trouble catching your breath, experience facial swelling, or feel frightened by your symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider or 911 immediately. 

  • Am I coughing after exercise because I’m out of shape?

    No. Even fit and healthy people may have a fit of coughing after they exercise. In fact, a recognized symptom of EIB is feeling out of shape when you're actually very fit.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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