Running isn't the typical remedy that most people think of when it comes to helping to alleviate symptoms of a sinus infection, but running can help to temporarily relieve nasal congestion. Sinusitis is an infection that occurs in the sinus cavities that causes severe congestion, sinus headaches, post-nasal drip and loss of taste and smell. If running makes you feel worse, stop exercising and call your doctor. A sinus infection needs to be diagnosed by a medical doctor for the most effective treatment options.
Your sinuses are air-filled cavities behind your nose, cheeks and eyes. Nasal passages are lined with a layer of mucus that helps to protect the soft tissues and filter airborne particles from entering the lungs. A sinus infection occurs when your sinus passages become inflamed because of a virus, bacteria or fungus. The infection causes an increased blood flow and swelling that restricts your ability to breathe normally or to drain mucus out of your nostrils. The blockage in the sinuses causes pain throughout the head, such as in the ears, upper teeth, eyes, forehead and cheeks.
Running causes an increase in your heart rate, which causes blood to flow faster throughout the body, resulting in less blood flow to the sinuses. This action can reduce the inflammation in the sinus cavity, but will not cure a sinus infection. Exercise is recommended with common symptoms of a sinus infection, but if you have symptoms that are below the neck, such as chest congestion, constant coughing or an upset stomach, you should refrain from running until symptoms subside. In some cases, a sinus infection may lead to a low-grade fever. It's not advisable to run if you develop a fever.
If your doctor suspects that the infection is the result of a bacterial infection, she will prescribe antibiotic treatment to kill the bacteria, which will alleviate symptoms. If the infection is viral, lifestyle changes may be suggested. Increased water intake and the use of over-the-counter decongestants can help to provide relief to symptoms associated with a sinus infection. Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than three consecutive days because it may make congestion worse.
If you continue to run with sinusitis, you should reduce the longevity and intensity of the workout until you feel better. While exercise helps to maintain overall health, over-exerting yourself can cause your illness to become prolonged.