Dry Cough After Running

A regularly occurring dry cough after running is often brought on by exercise-induced asthma, also known as exercise-induced bronchospasms. A respiratory infection could also result in a dry cough, so consult with your doctor for proper treatment. Your doctor can diagnose your symptoms by observing your breathing before and after physical exertion.

A runner is standing on the beach, holding her chest. (Image: Dirima/iStock/Getty Images)

Identification

The symptoms of exercise-induced asthma, or EIA, typically occur 10 to 15 minutes after you stop running; however, you can experience symptoms during physical exertion as well. A dry cough accompanied by chest tightness and difficulties catching your breath are common symptoms of this form of asthma. You may also experience wheezing and fatigue. The symptoms typically disappear gradually as you rest.

Cause

Running is a vigorous-intensity aerobic activity that causes more severe symptoms of exercise-induced asthma than light- or moderate-intensity activities. Hyperventilation is the primary cause of EIA, but cooling of the airways is also associated with EIA symptoms. Air that is colder or dryer than the air in your lungs causes an inflammatory response that result in your airways tightening and producing excess mucus. Running when air pollution is at its highest or when you have a respiratory infection can worsen the symptoms of EIA. If your lungs are sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, this can also make your symptoms more severe. Your cough after running may be most noticeable during allergy seasons.

Treatment

It can take two to three medications to successfully treat EIA. Inhalers can be more effective at relieving symptoms than pills -- your doctor may advise you to use a quick-relief inhaler before running to open the airways for four to six hours; for longer relief, you may also have a long-acting inhaler which lasts up to 12 hours. Inhaled steroids that are administered daily for two weeks have shown to be effective for treating EIA. Your doctor may also prescribe leukotriene modifiers to keep airways from tightening.

Prevention

Walking for 10 to 15 minutes before running to warm up your lungs will prepare your body for more vigorous physical exertion. Breathing through your nose while running keeps you from taking large gulps of air through the mouth, which dries, cools and inflames your airways -- your nose naturally filters, warms and moistens the air that enters your lungs. In cold weather, consider using a mask that warms the air as you breathe. Running in a humid environment, such as near a river or lake, may reduce symptoms of EIA.

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