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Why Does My Nose Run When I Exercise?

Have you noticed your nose runs when exercising? When you’re done working out, you feel congested and sometimes miserable. Well, there’s an explanation for this situation.

Your nose runs when exercising if you have any type of rhinitis. When exercising, you take in a larger amount of air filled with allergens. Once these allergens get into your body, they trigger rhinitis symptoms, including sneezing, coughing, and an itchy nose. In some cases, the condition is exercise-induced and is triggered by working out. 

Are you bothered about having a runny nose whenever you begin a workout routine? Here we explore more about exercise-induced rhinitis and how to deal with this condition.

What Is Exercise-Induced Rhinitis?

Exercise is one of the activities that trigger both allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. This condition is more prevalent in athletes than non-athletes. Let’s look at the type of rhinitis and its causes.

What Is Allergic Rhinitis?

Thus is the most prevalent type of rhinitis, usually known as hay fever. It results from the immune system’s reaction to specific environmental stimuli. When the immune system interacts with a chemical that it recognizes as potentially hazardous, it triggers an allergic reaction.

People can come into contact with allergens in several ways, including by breathing, swallowing, and touching them. The immune system creates antibodies that neutralize the allergen to destabilize it and the potential harm it can bring. When the immune system encounters an allergen, these antibodies are triggered, releasing these substances into the bloodstream.

People with allergic rhinitis are often more allergic to pollen from plants. However, they can also react to other substances like pet dander and mold.

You’re exposed to more allergens since you breathe in more air when you exercise. Also, you have to take deeper and faster breaths which further enhance these allergens. 

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Furthermore, the nose serves as a body-wide air filter, capturing allergens and particulates before reaching your lungs. This process is accelerated during exercise, which might increase nose inflammation.

Non-Allergic Rhinitis

Identifying and diagnosing non-allergic rhinitis is more complex than allergic rhinitis. Even though it is less common, it is responsible for around one-fourth of all occurrences of rhinitis. It’s not caused by the body’s immune system but rather by various events that promote congestion in the blood vessels.

Substances with strong aromas like detergents and perfumes, air pollution, and changes in the weather can cause non-allergic rhinitis. Viral infections can also cause non-allergic rhinitis.

Like allergic rhinitis, symptoms include a runny nose, congestion, and post-nasal drip. 

Other Reasons Your Nose Runs When Exercising

Exercising in Cold and Dry Weather

Your nose runs when exercising in cold, dry weather. When you exercise in cold, dry weather, your body’s natural response is to produce more mucus to protect the lining of your nose.   

Mucus protects your lungs from germs and irritants by coating the lining of your nose. In other words, the less humid the air is, the more snot your nose has to produce to protect your airway.

Deep breathing when working out can also cause a runny nose, regardless of the weather.

Constricted Nasal Blood Vessels

Experts note that nasal blood veins constrict during exercise to optimize airflow.

When blood vessels dilate, they produce extra breathing space in the nasal canal. On the other hand, Nasal contraction is not a pleasant side effect. A runny or clogged nose might be caused by inflammation, lasting 15 minutes after exercise.

This scenario is worse for some people. It’s usually an effect of the blood vessels returning to their normal size after a workout. One of the effects of this process is a runny nose.

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Breathing Dirty Air

Your nose runs when exercising and breathing in dirty air. Inhaling more oxygen exposes you to irritants such as smoke and pollution when exercising outside

Furthermore, people with rhinitis prefer to switch from nasal to mouth breathing because their nose is closed. However, the nose valve protects your lungs by preventing irritants from entering your lower airway.

You’re more susceptible to irritants, throat discomfort, and asthmatic symptoms if you use mouth breathing.

What to Do if Your Nose Runs When Exercising

Use a Humidifier during the Winter Months

You can keep your nasal passages wet throughout the winter months by exercising indoors with a humidifier nearby. However, if you’re a fan of snowy runs or skiing, this is not the best technique. Instead, wear a face mask or gaiter to keep the air you breathe moist. 

Stay Away from Allergens

When you notice your nose runs when exercising, the first step is to identify the cause of the reaction. Once you’ve done this, you can try to eliminate these triggers from your exercise environment. Sometimes, it might involve changing your space to a more healthy one or simply resting a little longer.

Use Medications

If your nose runs when exercising and you can’t identify the problem, you have to see a healthcare provider. These experts would recommend medications that can help alleviate symptoms. Medicines for exercise-induced rhinitis come in three groups:

  • Anticholinergics: This is an inhaler that can relax and open the airways. Unfortunately, it increases the risk of dementia in some people.
  • Nasal steroid sprays: There are many over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays available. Good examples of this spray include fluticasone and triamcinolone acetonide. Your doctor might recommend this to reduce the effect of rhinitis.
  • Intranasal antihistamines: Non-allergic rhinitis can be adequately treated with intranasal antihistamines like azelastine. 


If your nose runs when exercising, you might be allergic to something in your environment. You need to see a specialist when you’ve done your best to curb this, and it isn’t working. Then, you might receive the best prescriptions and medical advice to help stop exercise-induced rhinitis.

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