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Lungs That Are Burning When Running

author image Jessica Lietz
Jessica Lietz has been writing about health-related topics since 2009. She has several years of experience in genetics research, survey design, analysis and epidemiology, working on both infectious and chronic diseases. Lietz holds a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from The Ohio State University.
Lungs That Are Burning When Running
A runner is sitting down on a track. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

An uncomfortable, burning sensation in the lungs while running can discourage people from performing the exercise they both need and enjoy. Although anyone can develop a burning sensation in the lungs while running, certain risk factors can trigger or worsen the condition. Most cases of a burning feeling in the lungs are preventable or treatable with lifestyle changes or medical care.

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Feeling a burning sensation in the lungs while running might occur more often in children than adults, and in people who are overweight or obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that this symptom occurs areas with air pollution, as well as in people who smoke. In some people, other symptoms including poor athletic performance, difficulty breathing, coughing and tightness or pain in the chest might accompany the burning sensation.


General physicians and specialists such as allergists identify the causes of burning sensations in the lungs by taking a health history of the patient. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology website explains that doctors often administer a breathing test while the patient rests, followed by another test while exercising. Patients whose symptoms are accompanied by allergies might undergo allergy skin prick testing to identify any triggers that might worsen the burning sensation while running.


In most cases, a burning feeling in the lungs when running is caused by exercise-induced asthma. Intense aerobic exercise such as running is more likely to trigger this condition than other types of exercise, such as weightlifting or yoga. In addition, running in cold or dry air or during periods when airborne pollen counts are high might cause or exacerbate a burning feeling in the lungs.


Doctors usually treat burning in the lungs while running with a prescription bronchodilator that patients self-administer before exercising. However, if symptoms still occur while running, the Wexner Medical Center notes that your doctor may prescribe a long-acting beta agonists to relax the muscles around the lungs and oral allergy medications. If symptoms are severe, rescue medications such as oral or intravenous corticosteroids such as prednisone quickly reduce the inflammation that produces the burning sensation.


Exercise in a warm, humidified environment such as a fitness club or pool. Consider other types of exercise that do not trigger symptoms, such as swimming or lifting weights. For those who enjoy and do not want to give up running, consider going on shorter runs and breathe through the nose to help warm up the air before it reaches the lungs.

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