If you've noticed chest congestion and excessive phlegm production after exercise, you're not alone. While fatigue or shortness of breath occur commonly in exercise, it may point to respiratory irritation. Certain exercise factors contribute to post-exercise phlegm production, although a sudden onset of these symptoms may be caused by a respiratory infection or a disease. If concerned about your signs and symptoms, consult your doctor.
Exercise Triggers Mucus Buildup
When you perform vigorous physical exercise, you're breathing at a faster rate and processing larger volumes of oxygen through your lungs than when at rest. In a normal resting state, air is moistened and warmed through the nasal passage before entering your lungs, and the nasal passage filters out debris and environmental irritants. However, when exercising, you tend to breathe through your mouth rather than your lungs, causing dry, cool and particle-containing air to enter your lungs directly. These changes in breathing due to exercise contribute to excessive phlegm production. Generally, coughing and mucus buildup stop shortly after you stop exercising.
Exercise-induced asthma may also be a contributing factor to phlegm buildup, but it generally occurs with other symptoms. If you notice tightness in the chest, wheezing and shortness of breath along with excessive mucus production, then you may be experiencing exercise-induced asthma. In this case, certain medications that open the airway reduce symptoms and alleviate symptoms. Seeing a health care provider ensures a proper diagnosis, helping you to stay active as well as making exercise a more enjoyable experience.
Environmental allergens may contribute to mucus production during and after exercise. Exercising outside exposes you to pollen, which is why you may notice excessive phlegm production during the warmer months of the year. You may also be allergic to mold or dust, which can also trigger mucus production while exercising. Consider changing your environment to see if your symptoms change, especially if you are prone to common allergens such as pollen, dust and mold.
Acute or Chronic Illnesses
A sudden buildup of phlegm may be the result of an infection. Sinusitis, bronchitis and certain respiratory viruses contribute to phlegm production and may be exacerbated by exercise. In these cases, the color of phlegm often indicates if you're experiencing an infection. If your mucus is clear, then an infection is less likely. However, if it is yellow or green, you probably have an infection. See a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.