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Posted by on Oct 9, 2013 in Articles

Why Does My Nose Run When I Workout?

Exercise Induced Runny Nose

This is a question that I’ve asked myself for what seems like forever. When I was younger and swimming was my sport, I noticed this phenomenon but it wasn’t until I got into running and cycling that it became that much more obvious to me. I’ve always had allergies – mostly to mold, pollen and the like – so a runny nose was/is nothing new, but this is a different animal altogether.

Generally, when we think of runny noses we think of allergies, and rightfully so. The most common version of a runny nose is a byproduct of “allergic rhinitis” or swelling and irritation of the mucous membrane inside the nose. In the case of allergic rhinitis, the inflammation/irritation comes from inhalation of an allergen (dust, pollen, animal dander, etc.) in a person who is allergic to that allergen.

Since we’re talking about non-allergic runny noses in this article, that’s what we’re going to focus on. Non-allergic rhinitis, also known as vasomotor rhinitis, can come from a lot of different causes including, airborne irritants (hairspray, air-freshener), changes in environment (rapid increase or decrease in temperature, humidity, etc), foods (spicy or alcohol) and  eve sexual arousal. In the case of exercise-induced rhinitis, part of the onset is from the increased amount and intensity of inhalation. As we do this, not only are we taking in more potential irritants through our nose (and mouth) but we’re also changing the environment in our nasopharynx (nose-mouth area). This can cause rhinitis and the subsequent increase in mucous flow to protect the mucous membrane and clean the airways.

So, how can this be treated? Well, I’ve read in several different places that the regular use of a nasal corticosteroid (Flonase) can help with the inflammation and subsequently, the runny nose. There are also many who might suggest and anti-histamine which would likely reduce swelling and irritation. Here’s are the problems I have with the anti-histamine thing; apart from the VERY well known drowsiness that comes with many anti-histamines (picture yourself running on Benadryl!), there is, for me, a general sense of spaciness on even the “non-drowsy” types. When I go to workout I want to not only be able to have a good workout that I enjoy, but I also want to be able to be mentally in touch with what’s going on in my body and having my brain being chemically altered is not something I want to do.

So, if you’re someone who deals with this as I am, I’d suggest – for the sake of a good workout – to just live with it. I recognize that there are likely some extreme cases out there but for the most part exercise-induced rhinitis is no big deal. So, as gross as it sounds, grab a tissue or simply learn to blow on-the-go (aka, snot-rocket).

Does your nose run when you workout? What do you do to deal with it?

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