Running is hard enough as it is, but mix in some bad weather or, even worse, a phlegm-y throat, and even the easiest runs become impossible.
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Coughing up mucus mid-run is no fun, and there are a few reasons why your body builds up extra phlegm, including dehydration, allergies, air quality and asthma. Read on to learn why you may have extra mucus, how to best combat your symptoms and run phlegm-free.
4 Ways to Avoid Phlegm While Running
1. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Your body produces mucus and phlegm as a way to moisturize and protect your mouth and throat, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When you inhale and exhale on a run, your mouth and throat can get a little dry. So, your body secretes extra phlegm for moisture.
And while your body is doing its job, a phlegm-y throat doesn't feel too great while you exercise. Drinking enough fluids before and after a run is one way to prevent excess buildup. Make sure to drink plenty of water before you hit the trail or track and keep a water bottle close at hand if you're running indoors.
How to know you're properly hydrated? Ideally, you should be using the bathroom every two to three hours and your urine should be a clear to pale yellow.
2. Choose Your Settings Carefully
Exposure to smoke and pollution is another reason you may experience extra phlegm, per the Cleveland Clinic. This is especially problematic for those who prefer to do their runs outdoors — even a super dry climate can cause your mouth and throat to secrete extra mucus.
Before your longer training runs, double check the air quality in your area on the internet (or the iPhone weather app). Opt for an indoor treadmill run on days that the air is especially polluted.
3. Adjust for Allergies
Allergies are another common reason you may build up some extra phlegm when running, according to Jason Schuster, DPT, founder of Intricate Art Spine and Body Solutions.
"Especially if people are running outside and they're allergic to something or other, this would increase mucus production," he says.
One way to combat seasonal allergies? Try to plan your outdoor runs on days when pollen counts are low. In the spring and summer, the evenings usually have higher levels of tree and grass pollen, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). In the late summer and early fall, mornings usually have high levels of ragweed pollen.
You can also try over-the-counter allergy medications, Schuster says. These can help limit your body's phlegm and mucus production. But if you haven't used any allergy meds before, it's best to double check with your doctor beforehand.
4. Use Your Inhaler
Asthma is another factor to consider, Schuster says. Asthma causes inflammation in your lungs and your body responds to this inflammation by producing phlegm, according to the ACAAI.
Using your inhaler as prescribed is the best way to help combat asthma-related phlegm before and after running. For those who don't have an inhaler, it's best to consult a doctor or medical professional to find the best treatment method.