Exercise & Runny Nose

When you hit the gym at the end of a busy work day, the last thing you want to deal with is a runny nose when lifting weights. But unfortunately, exercise can sometimes trigger an increase in your mucous production that leaves you reaching for a tissue rather than a set of heavier dumbbells.

Unfortunately, exercise can sometimes trigger an increase in your mucous production that leaves you reaching for a tissue rather than a set of heavier dumbbells. Credit: Hinterhaus Productions/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Runny Nose When Lifting Weights

Dealing with a drippy nose while working out is something most gym-goers experience at some point. If it's the fallout from a bad cold or allergies, it's easy to determine the trigger and find a way to manage the mess. But if the cause of your runny nose is a mystery, you might be dealing with a condition called nonallergic rhinitis.

According to the Mayo Clinic, nonallergic rhinitis (rhinitis refers to inflammation or drainage from the nose) involves chronic sneezing or a congested, drippy nose with no apparent cause. What triggers these symptoms is the real question, but some possible causes include certain foods, odors or irritants in the air, changes in the weather such as exercising in a cold wind, medications or a chronic health condition.

But if you have allergic rhinitis, Dina Elnaggar, MD, MS, CAQ, Sports Medicine and Family Medicine physician from CareMount Medical tells LIVESTRONG.com that your runny nose during exercise might be an allergic response to environmental allergens such as pollution, dust and pollen.

Read more: Cardio Exercise When Sick

Exercise-Induced Rhinitis

One condition experts are still researching that is part of the nonallergic rhinitis category is exercise-induced rhinitis. And yes, just like the title says, this type of mucous production is linked to working out, especially in certain environments.

Unfortunately, if you are dealing with exercise-induced rhinitis, your chances of experiencing a runny nose while lifting weights are higher than your gym partner who stays snot-free. And before you use this as an excuse to cancel your membership, there is no proof that this type of rhinitis means that you are allergic to exercise.

In fact, a review of the existing information about exercise-induced rhinitis was published in the November 2018 Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, explains that no standardized method of diagnosis or treatment of exercise-induced rhinitis exists.

However, your persistent runny nose could point to some possible triggers in the gym environment such as cleaning products, perfume or deodorants. It may also indicate a reaction to certain weather conditions such as cold air that are causing your sneeze attacks after running.

Read more: Causes of Sneezing After Exercise or Walking

Managing the Symptoms

If your runny nose when lifting weights is due to allergic rhinitis, Elnaggar says your doctor may treat you with nasal saline rinses and over the counter intranasal steroids such as Flonase.

But if the drip is coming from non-allergy triggers such as spicy foods, cold temperatures, stress, odors (perfumes and pollutants), humidity or even exercise, as seen with exercise-induced rhinitis, Elnaggar says these symptoms all point to nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis.

Vasomotor rhinitis causes chronic sneezing, congestion or runny nose, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. "This is often treated with a prescription nasal spray called ipratropium," explains Elnaggar.

When your runny nose is due to environmental factors, you need to consider the severity and frequency of your symptoms. If this is a rare occurrence, packing some extra tissues may be the answer. However, if exposure to environmental triggers is causing several sneeze attacks after running on the treadmill or a constant runny nose while lifting weights, you may need to consider changing facilities.

But before you do, take some time to explore other gyms and ask about their cleaning products. Visit during peak hours and take a sniff. Pay attention to the location and how close it is to any environmental triggers such as car exhaust, chlorine from a swimming pool, cigarette smoke or smog.

Finally, if you are experiencing a runny nose during exercise, it is best to consult with your doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist to sort out what type of triggers you are having and the appropriate treatment.

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