Runny Nose while Exercising (running and biking)


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I was checking my web logs and someone came to my site using the keywords “kleenex bike ride”. I thought that was funny because I have such a problem with my nose being runny when I bike and run. I don’t have a cold or anything…just something about working out makes my nose run…so annoying! I keep meaning to go see a doctor about it.

I took some old t-shirts and cut them into hanky sized squares. (about 10 inches by 10 inches). I call these my snot rags – LOL. :roll:

I stick one in my pocket when I go running. If I don’t have a pocket in my running shorts, I’ll tuck the hanky into the back of my waistband. Sometimes it falls out, but I don’t care because it was just a piece of old t-shirt. Tho, when that happens, I am stuck wiping my nose on my shirt.

For biking, I tuck it into the bottom cuff of my bike shorts. Since the bike shorts are snug, it stays in there quite nicely until needed.

This must be a common problem for bikers. I was watching the Tour of California on TV and there were two guys who kept blowing snot out of their noses.

UPDATE 5/2/2006: I kept thinking about this while running, trying to figure out what exactly is causing the runny nose, and I figured out that the tube that leads from my nose into the back of my throat is always congested. So, the snot has nowhere to go except out my nose. I tried dosing up on sudafed before workouts, and that doesn’t help. So, I tried Robitussin (Guaifenesin), and that does work well. I find that I have to dose up three times before a workout or race to really clear out that tube. In other words, one dose the night before, and one first thing in the morning, and then one right before the workout/race. I will probably just use idea this for key workouts and for races, since I don’t like to take medicine every day.

Update Jan 2008 I stopped carrying snot rags while biking and running and now just use my hand. ICK, I know, but the snot rag just got all soggy after a half hour anyway. I read in a bike book that this condition is known as vasomotor rhinitis and is thought to be caused by an imbalance nerves to nasal passages. Your doctor can prescribe ipratropium bromide, trade name Atrovent, to alleviate the problem. I’m going to ask my doctor and will post back how it goes.

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18 comments on “Runny Nose while Exercising (running and biking)
  1. Cyclist says:

    I just turn my head and blow it out right on the street. I rub the remaining bit on my wrist. I notice it in the cold too. I’m so used to it, and I don’t even mind it anymore.

  2. Vince says:

    Hey for the people that have this problem, how much dairy is in your diet? I wonder if cutting dairy out will help since thats what makes mucus. How often do you guys drink milk?

  3. Sonia says:

    So what happened? Did you find something that works? I have the same problem!!!

  4. Lynn says:

    Wow, thanks for all the advice I have been suffering with this same problem for sometime now. It has been hours since I went running and it has not stopped yet. In addition, my head is tight and everytime I sniff I get this tickling sensation in my nose that makes me sneeze or gives me the feeling that I am about to. I thought I hydrated plenty before my run as suggested by other comments, but I will pay closer attention next time. It is so comforting to know that I am not alone in this irritating battle.

  5. Peter Schwepker says:

    I have found that proper hydration before exercise virtually eliminates this problem. I have no ideas how it is connected, but i do know that even if I drink Gatorade and bring my electrolyte levels up, it seems to help. at lot. tonight, I played a hour of hard basketball without hydrating and I am sneezing with a bad running nose. I will remember for sure next time.

  6. HenryB says:

    I have the same issue as most. I am about to do a 30k bike and 7.5k run and i;m dreading the thought of my nose running as soon as I start.

    The site offers a good solution which I will try since I train 6 days/week and suffer from constant running nose. Link and article below:

    http://www.fitsugar.com/Im-Running-So-My-Nose-100363

    I’m Running and So Is My Nose
    Exercise-induced rhinitis is really common among athletes, according to researchers at the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Clinic of Colorado.

    Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes. Symptoms include, excessive mucus production, congestion, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes – fun stuff, huh?

    It can happen whether or not you have allergies. And it doesn’t matter if you are exercising inside or outside, or if the air is cold or warm. It usually happens with vigorous exercise such as running, cycling, or skiing.

    If you don’t mind a drippy nose, keep a generous supply of tissues stuffed in your tank top or jacket pocket.

    It it’s driving you nuts, you can treat symptoms before they start. Make an appointment with an allergist, so you can get a prescription nasal spray. You’ll have to take it for a week or so to start seeing results. And you’ll have to keep taking it to keep your nose from running and ruining your workout.

  7. Shaun says:

    I am rather annoyed with this problem too. Today I ran and it took a few hours after I finished for my nose to start running and the sneezing to begin (strange that it would take so long). So here I am getting ready to go to bed and it’s still coming out. Sometimes I can run and it’s not a problem, other times it can make me sneeze for days. I’ve never used one, but I was curious if a neti pot would help. For now I’ll try hydrating more before I run, then perhaps i’ll test the neti pot.

  8. Linda says:

    I am so grateful to have found this website and to know that I am not alone! I am currently dealing with an irritatingly runny nose after my treadmill run about 6 hours ago. This will persist until I go to bed tonight. I really cannot figure out what is causing this, because I had run a half marathon in Toronto about 1.5 years ago and did not have this problem when I was training for it. This runny nose issue only started up when I moved to Calgary, Alberta, which is a drier, dustier region than where I came from (Toronto) which is very humid. I actually find relief from the runny nose when I’m in a hot shower (humid environment), and as soon as I’m out, it starts up again. I’m wondering whether I have very sensitive sinuses and the dryness of Alberta triggers something off in my nose. I do know that everytime I pop a mint or mint flavoured gum in my mouth, I sneeze once. This happens with cough syrup and some alcohol too (red wine). I don`t think its an allergy or dehydration because my habbits have not changed at all from the time I was in Toronto to here.

  9. LandmineSalesman says:

    I have the same problem!! I remember it was worse back in fall 2006 when I had to constantly spit out this opaque mucus while exercising. I started exercising again in June 2009 and didn’t have too much problem but since recently it has reappeared again!! Burning nose during exercise and transparent sticky mucus discharge :( I have done everything!! I eat right, I track my caloric intake on fitday.com, I get the nutrients out of various fruits and vegetables but nothing helps (although beets seem to be a temporary fix). Its annoying as hell and I want it out of my life.

  10. Prince says:

    I have noticed this same problem for the past year or so. Whenever I go biking with my kids and we do about 40 km or more and at a fair pace I end up sneezing and blowing my nose sometimes for days after the exercise.

    I want to do a marathon on my 40th birthday and started training today and the runny nose begins again. I am at a lose for what to do. My family doctor sent me for pulmonary function test and I also took Xray and nothing negative came out. I have to call my doctor to hear what he has to say. If anyone has any solution to this problem please feel free to share.

  11. Kathy says:

    It’s good to see I’m not alone. When I skied a lot I was always the one with the runniest nose, but that is expected with skiing. When I ride outside, I just use my hand and wipe it on my bike shorts–they’re going in the wash right after anyway. Haven’t had the nerve to do the snot blow yet. But my problem is when I’m in spin class. My nose just gushes and I have to blow it every 5 minutes. I can’t breathe right if I don’t. I keep 2 kleenexes in my towel and they are just wet little balls by the end. What is weird is I look around at the others and I am the only person with this problem. I’ve been spinning for 2 and a half years and it’s always been the same. I feel great afterwards and haven’t had a cold or flu for over a year (knock wood)–I figure it’s just a good purge, though a very annoying one.

  12. Sarah says:

    The same thing happens to me as well, but during my run. When I start getting really tired, my nose just keeps running and is SO annoying! I end up blowing my nose in my shirt which is really attractive, I know. None of my friends seem to have this problem!

  13. Carlos says:

    Well, I have the same problem and I’m glad to see that I’m not extra weird or something, I just started jogging again and my nose started running, the water thing sounds like it may be a good solution, but I also think he has something to do with the fact that I haven’t been jogging for a bit and the other bit about the tube always being congested may work, so I’m going to drink water and run a bit more~

  14. Alan says:

    I have had this problem after playing basketball, which I don’t do often enough not to get very winded. After I get home my nose starts to burn and I’ll have a runny nose for hours or into the next day. After reading much on the web I found that I’m not alone.

  15. Christine says:

    I am so glad I found this website. After not exercising for 2 years I started running an hour on the treadmill followed by my weight lifting routine. The first day of running on the treadmill as soon as I finished, my nose started burning, then it started running and would not stop. This progressed and lasted at least 5-6 hours after my run. I was in a newly renovated gym and assumed there was something in the air that triggered an allergic reaction. The next time I went into the gym the exact same thing happened. This time my poor trainer had to carry a box of kleenex while I lifted weights. This reinforced my thought process that there was a irritant in the gym. I decided to premedicate with Zyrtec D. The symptoms persisted only after I ran. During my run I have no problems, but as soon as I got off the treadmill the symptoms started. I then went to Cleveland to visit my sister and went to the local gym for my workout. I continued my Zyrtec every day thinking I had an allergy. After my workout in Cleveland the symptoms persisted. Obviously this is not an allergic reaction. It does not inhibit me from exercising, but it is embarrasing and very annoying. I am a cardiac nurse and have asked my peers and get no physiological reasons of why this is happening. I don’t even know what type of MD to see regarding the problem. If anyone knows what causes these symptoms or if there is a diagnosis and treatment to these symptoms I would love to find out what it is.
    Frustrated in Florida

  16. Shannon says:

    Hello,
    I experience the same thing! It’s so great to know one’s not alone in snot kingdom. Usually while I am running, I am fine. It’s afterward that bugs the hell out of me. My nose just runs and runs and runs.
    Interesting about the lack of hydration idea, although I have my doubts. My roommate, a nutritionist said the same thing. She said she thought it might be caused by lack of hydration, so I’m going to try to hydrate better before my runs to see if that helps.
    Yesterday, my nose ran for 3 hours after a 5.5 mile run. But when I drank orange juice, it stopped. I’ll try it again next time to see if it works consistently.
    Who knows what the panacea is. Guess we’ll all keep trying and exchanging ideas until we have a solutions!

  17. Michael says:

    I have had the same problem in the past and after many many running sessions I have come to realize that the only time I get runny noses is when I have not hydrated enough during the run. I try to hydrate with enough fluids …~30 to 40 oz an hour of gatorade/water/electolyte mix and this seems to keep my nose from running. Now…at the end of my long runs +15 miles…it becomes harder and harder to keep your yourself hydrated…thus your nose starts running. This may be something only I experience so please see if this helps you and your running. When I dont take water on my runs or gatorade I seem to get runny noses. Just water for thought!

  18. Atom says:

    Robitussin huh? I’ll definitly have to try that. Though something alittle more permanent and a lot less frequent would be nice. But till I find that solution, this will have to do.
    Thanks.

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