How to go running when you have a cough

How to go running when you have a cough

You had a great run. You sailed through the steady-state parts and even tackled the toughest moments of the set like a pro. All good, except. cough, cough, hack, what? Nothing can break your post-run euphoria quite like a coughing fit. But why are you hacking now when you breathed just fine during your workout?

Before you worry that your cough is a symptom of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, consider this: Coughing during or after exercise is a common symptom of a condition called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), which occurs when the airways in your lungs narrow temporarily in response to any kind of physical activity that revs up your heart rate. (To understand more about what a COVID-19 dry cough is like, check the information here.)

“This makes it more difficult for the air to get through into the lungs,” says Jonathan Parsons, M.D., director of the Ohio State University Multidisciplinary Cough Program.

It’s similar to what happens to your lungs during asthma. In fact, EIB used to be known as “exercise-induced asthma.” But unlike asthma, where attacks can be triggered by a variety of things like smoke, pollen, mold, pet dander, or viruses, EIB is sparked only by exercise.

Most asthmatics have suffered EIB symptoms during some point in their lives, says Dr. Parsons. So if you have asthma, you may already know exercise can cause some distress.

But EIB can affect up to an estimated 15 percent of the general, asthma-free population. It can be annoying and uncomfortable, but in many cases there are things you can do to prevent it from happening. Some are little tweaks you can make before your workout to keep your airways from rebelling and causing you to cough; others require a prescription. But whether your cough is severe or just a little bothersome, it’s worth calling a doctor when symptoms develop—some other conditions can cause the same symptoms and you’ll want to get the right diagnosis. Here’s how to spot the signs and get the right treatment for the condition.

How do you know if running is what’s causing your cough?

Symptoms of EIB are nonspecific, meaning they’re similar to those caused by other conditions.

Common signs include shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, cough, wheezing, and difficulty getting air into your lungs. You might also feel like you have decreased endurance or abdominal discomfort.

The symptoms are often mild to moderate: You may just feel a slight wheeze or a bit of tightness in your chest—more of an annoyance than anything more serious.

But the attacks can also be severe, requiring you to stop what you’re doing to catch your breath. In some cases, you may even need to go to the emergency room to get your breathing back under control.

How much exercise does it take to bring the problem on?

Usually it takes about 10 to 15 minutes of exercise to provoke an EIB episode, Dr. Parsons says.

Any exercise that speeds up your heart rate can trigger the condition, though it’s much more common in endurance athletes, like runners, swimmers, and triathletes.

EIB can pop up after short, intense bouts of exercise as well, like sprinting or even circuit training without rest periods.

How to go running when you have a cough

What else triggers coughing after running

The kind of air you breathe can play a role, too. EIB tends to flare more when the air lacks humidity, which is common on cold days. So that may be one reason why your outdoor runs leave you with a cough when there’s a cold snap.

“Your lungs don’t like dry air,” says Dr. Parsons. “So the airways try to humidify it, and when they do, they become dehydrated. Dehydrated airways are irritable and much more likely to constrict or narrow.”

How do you know you have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction?

If you’ve been noticing symptoms of EIB, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. Simply taking medications on the basis of your symptoms alone can prevent you from knowing if you have the condition.

Your doctor will order a series of tests that measure your lung functions, says Dr. Parsons.

The first test assesses your lungs at rest. Then your doc will ask you to exercise on either a treadmill or a track, and take another resting test. If there’s a decline in your lung function after exercising, you may have EIB.

How do you treat that post-run cough?

Once you receive a diagnosis, you’ll probably be given a rescue inhaler like Albuterol, which helps you breathe better by relaxing and opening the airways that go to your lungs.

Take a couple puffs 15 to 20 minutes before starting exercise. Don’t wait until you’re done and the cough is flaring up.

How to go running when you have a cough

The inhaler will help you prevent another EIB episode from occurring, instead of waiting for it to happen and then reacting to it, Dr. Parsons says. “It’s effective in about 80 to 90 percent of patients.”

The treatment should be enough to allow you to zip through a sweat session without any symptoms, but make sure to keep your inhaler handy during your workout just in case.

If you’re still feeling symptoms even after you take the Albuterol, your doc may start you on a daily inhaled corticosteroid, too.

He or she might also want to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, like vocal cord dysfunction, uncontrolled allergies, post nasal drip, or even acid reflux. Many people don’t realize that unexplained coughing can be a symptom of acid reflux (and even fewer know that taking care of that acid reflux might not mean giving up all the foods you love like coffee, citrus fruits, and tomatoes).

Are there ways to prevent that cough you get after running?

Whether you use an inhaler or not, don’t dive right into exercise (your joints will thank you for this, too). Research has shown that 10 to 15 minutes of moderately intense exercise can reduce the risk of EIB attacks from occurring afterward. The goal of this warmup is to raise your core temperature a little bit. That means walk or jog slowly before you break out in your full-on run, or spin in a small gear if you’re on your bike. In addition to reducing your chances of coughing after running, this also helps warm up the synovial fluid in your joints so they’re better ready to serve you in a tough or steady-state mainset.

And if you’re going to run outside in cold, dry air—less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit—consider wearing a mask or a scarf to help your lungs out, says Dr. Parsons. (Check out these comfortable face mask options that support charity.)

“When you put a scarf around your mouth, it’ll get a little moist as you breathe,” he says. “That will help humidify the air and warm it up as well.”

How to go running when you have a cough

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the UK as cases soared on Tuesday to 106,122 – the highest 24-hour increase since the pandemic began.

On Wednesday, December 22, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a cut to the time people must isolate for after showing symptoms.

The previous 10-day period is now just seven days, providing people show a native lateral flow test 24 hours apart on days 6 and 7 of isolation and they are fully vaccinated.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) believe that the change is perfectly safe, The Mirror reports, but people should be aware of how long symptoms can last, as well as the length of time they may be contagious for.

How long does Covid last for?

Symptoms of Covid-19 may last a long time but should begin to clear after around five days. There is no exact number on how long it takes a person to recover from the virus, but this is a general estimate and expectation.

The common symptom of a cough is expected to last an average of four to five days.

At the moment, symptoms will usually differ depending on what variant a person contracts, but the six symptoms of the Omicron variant are as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Scratchy throat
  • Dry cough
  • Night sweats

This is the dominant variant in England at the moment, with cases soaring and doubling rapidly across the nation.

What is 'long covid' and how long does it last for?

Covid symptoms can linger for a very long time and many people have reported something known as 'long covid'.

The NHS said: "How long it takes to recover from COVID-19 is different for everybody.

"Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last longer.

"The chances of having long-term symptoms do not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get COVID-19.

"People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems."

How long does Covid take to appear?

How to go running when you have a cough

American scientists conducted a study into the time between a person coming into contact with the coronavirus and the moment your symptoms are expected to start.

They published their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine and it takes just over five days for symptoms to develop. 97% of people who contract the virus will develop symptoms within 11 days.

Symptoms have also been known to take up to 14 days to appear.

Despite this, the UKHSA believe that a seven-day period of isolation can have "nearly the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period."

The UKHSA chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries, told The Guardian : "Covid-19 is spreading quickly among the population, and the pace at which Omicron is transmitting may pose a risk to running our critical public services during winter.

"This new guidance will help break chains of transmission and minimise the impact on lives and livelihoods. It is crucial that people carry out their lateral flow tests as the new guidance states and continue to follow public health advice."

There are plenty of times when you might wonder: How far does a cough or a sneeze travel? During a global pandemic involving a respiratory illness is certainly one of them. Prior to the new coronavirus pretty much upending life as we know it, you might have simply given someone the side-eye if they coughed near you in the grocery store or on public transportation. And look, coughing in public without covering your mouth has always been a public health nuisance with the potential to cause harm. But now it can be a matter of life and death to a huge number of people—to the point that doing so intentionally might result in a felony charge.

And it makes sense to worry about other people coughing and sneezing in your general vicinity these days. COVID-19 spreads easily—and a big part of that spread is through respiratory droplets, like from a cough or a sneeze. What that means is that if someone coughs, sneezes, or even talks, small droplets can expel from their mouth. You can get sick if those droplets land in your mouth or nose and then you inhale them into your lungs, according to the CDC. The CDC recommends that you stay at least six feet away from people when you’re out in public, to minimize your risk of this type of transmission. But is six feet actually sufficient? If someone is coughing or sneezing, is it possible that they’re expelling those droplets farther than just six feet?

Which brings us back to the original question: How far does a cough or a sneeze travel?

Here, doctors explain what you should know about how far germs spread in general when people sneeze and cough, how to keep yourself as healthy as possible, and how to protect others when you’re the sick one (whether you have COVID-19 or otherwise).

Infectious diseases have a few modes of transmission.

One of these is large-droplet transmission, Alexander L. Greninger M.D., assistant director of the University of Washington Medicine Clinical Virology Laboratory, tells SELF. This refers to the droplets sick people expel when they cough, sneeze, or talk. If someone else inhales those secretions, they can get sick too. Illnesses like the flu, the common cold, and pertussis (whooping cough) are thought to mainly spread this way. Same goes for COVID-19.

Then there are infections that fall into the airborne-transmission category, like measles, tuberculosis, and chickenpox. Unlike large droplets, which need to quickly come into contact with someone’s mucous membranes in order to cause an infection, airborne transmission allows potential pathogens to remain suspended in the air for some time after someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. (Remember, not all germs are actual pathogens that can make you ill.) Then someone else can breathe in those particles and get sick.

Some illnesses can infect people via both forms of transmission. For instance, the flu mainly spreads through large droplets, but the CDC notes that it can be airborne as well. And there’s some preliminary research that suggests that COVID-19 has the potential to hang out in the air for a few hours as well, although more research is needed.

There’s also the potential to get sick through touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with that virus now on your fingers. That’s one way that people suspect COVID-19 is transmitted—the study mentioned above found evidence that the virus lasts for up to four hours on copper surfaces, 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. If someone sneezes or coughs and those droplets get on something you then touch (or if they have the virus on their hands from touching their face or blowing their nose and then touch something that you then touch), that could be a potential way to contract the disease.

Infectious diseases can also of course spread in other ways, such as through direct contact (like if you kiss someone who’s sick). But since we’re talking about how far germs spread through the air, we’re going to focus on large-droplet and airborne transmission.

The important thing to understand here is that scientists really only have estimates for how far coughing and sneezing can spread germs, not hard numbers. Some of this might even depend on how forcefully a person coughs or sneezes. (Scream sneezers, we’re looking at you. But we also know it’s not your fault.)

Large respiratory droplets containing pathogens like influenza can travel up to six feet when a sick person coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC. A 2014 study by MIT scientists published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics suggests this number may be way higher for smaller airborne particles. Researchers used high-speed video upwards of 1,000 frames per second to record sprays of mist as well as human coughs and sneezes, finding that smaller droplet particles traveled as far as 2.5 meters horizontally through the air. That’s more than eight feet.

The study also recorded smaller airborne droplets spraying 13 to 20 feet vertically in the air, which researchers noted was theoretically high enough to enter and travel through some ceiling ventilation systems in some buildings. The researchers posit that this impressive (and kind of nauseating) distance is because smaller pathogens can travel as part of a buoyant cloud that extends their reach.

The problem with airborne pathogens isn’t just how far they can spread, it’s also how long they can hang out in the air and on objects. A lot of this depends on the pathogen in question. Measles, for instance, can live for up to two hours in the air and on surfaces, according to the CDC. This illness is so contagious that 90% of people who are close to a person with measles but who aren’t immune (like through vaccinations) will catch the illness. That’s especially scary considering the recent measles resurgence happening in some parts of the United States.

For COVID-19, the study mentioned above found that coronavirus particles were detected in the air for a median of about 2.7 hours. That said, more research is needed.

It’s normal to feel completely grossed out by how far germs may be able to travel—and right now to feel really scared by it.

Certain cold and flu drugs can pose risks if you have thyroid disease

Dr. Danielle Weiss is double board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology. She is the founder of the Center for Hormonal Health and Well-Being in San Diego, California.

There’s no cure for the common cold or for its more serious sister illness, seasonal flu. But there are plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) medications for treating the nasal congestion that’s a major symptom of these viral illnesses. Most decongestants are safe and effective for the majority of folks who take them, but for those with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), some can do more harm than good.  

Decongestants and Heart Health

Several types of decongestants work by causing the blood vessels in the linings of the nasal passages to contract and narrow. This decreases blood flow to the lining of the nose and sinuses, thereby reducing congestion and the production of mucus.

The catch is, this effect isn't limited to nasal passages: Blood vessels throughout the body are affected, which can be dangerous for someone with a thyroid condition. That's because both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can affect the heart and circulatory system.  

Pseudoephedrine can strain an already overtaxed heart or further increase high blood pressure, worsening two common issues related to hyperthyroidism.

The decongestant most likely to be problematic is pseudoephedrine, which is sold not only as a single-ingredient medication, but is found in multi-symptom cold, flu, and allergy remedies as well.   (Note that because pseudoephedrine has been used illegally to make methamphetamine, it is sold from behind the pharmacy counter.)

Less potentially problematic, but still important to be aware of, is phenylephrine.  

These decongestants show up in many products, and some brands have products that contain both ingredients; it's important to read labels so that you know what you're taking.

These lists represent a small sample of the many OTC medications that have pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine alone or in combination with other ingredients.

Advil Cold and Sinus

Alavert Allergy and Sinus D-12

Aleve-D Sinus and Cold

Sudafed 12/24 Hour

Theraflu Max-D Severe Cold and Flu

Tylenol Sinus Severe Congestion Daytime

Actifed Cold and Allergy

Advil Congestion Relief

Benedryl-D Allergy Plus Sinus

Excedrin Sinus Headache

Robitussin Cough and Cold CF

Tylenol Allergy Multisymptom

Phenylephrine is also the active ingredient in nasal sprays for treating decongestion. Although the drug is targeted to blood vessels in the lining of the nose, experts don’t know for sure that it won’t affect vessels throughout the body, so you should check with your healthcare provider before using a nasal spray (such as Neo-Synephrine) if you have hyperthyroidism.

The same may be true for nasal sprays containing oxymetazoline. These include:

  • Afrin
  • Anefrin
  • Dristan
  • Mucinex
  • Nostrilla
  • Vicks Sinex

Interactions With Thyroid Medications

Hypothyroidism is managed with a synthetic form of thyroxine (T4) called levothyroxine, available under the brand names Synthroid or Levothroid.

People may be at increased risk of cardiovascular side effects if they take pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine and levothyroxine. This could be especially dangerous for someone who has preexisting heart disease.

Regardless of the type of thyroid disorder you have, whether you take medication to treat it, or happen to have a heart condition as well, it's best to err on the side of caution before taking a decongestant for a cold or flu and speak with your healthcare provider.

How to go running when you have a cough

Alternatives to Decongestants

Of course, there are things you can do to relieve nasal congestion from a cold or flu without medication:

  • Try a nasal dilator that widens nasal passages, such as Breathe Right strips. with a sterile saline solution (using a neti pot).
  • Use a saline spray or drops to thin mucus and make it easier to expel when you blow your nose.
  • Run a humidifier in the room where you spend the most time.
  • Take a warm shower or sit in the bathroom with the shower running hot enough to steam up the room.
  • Try eating spicy foods (peppers, ginger, turmeric, and garlic); these can open up the nasal passages.
  • Try an essential oil spray containing peppermint, eucalyptus, oregano, or rosemary.

Acupuncture and acupressure may also help relieve congestion.

If none of these strategies work, check with your healthcare provider to find out if there are other ways to get relief.