If you are a runner that braves the winter cold and enjoys the crisp air during your runs, you’ve likely experienced the unpleasant runny nose that appears suddenly to interrupt your running flow. It might feel like an allergy or a cold but if you do not have other symptoms or your symptoms seem to only appear during your winter runs, chances are that you are dealing with a runner’s nose.
A runner’s nose also known as a skier’s nose or cold-induced rhinorrhea (CIR) is a common condition that occurs in the winter as a result of exposure to cold weather. Our mucous membranes are responsible for regulating the temperature of the air that we inhale. In order to fulfill this function, the nostrils need to remain coated with moisture. Nasal passages need to be moist to function properly. Winter air is notoriously cold and dry which in turn dries out the nasal passages causing the membranes to work harder to produce mucus to protect the nasal cavities and warm up the air we breathe; this is where that stuffy feeling comes from. As we exhale the warm air from the lungs and it comes into contact with the cold air outside, the high pressure of the cold air causes the warm vapor to liquefy and build up water in the nostrils causing the runny nose.
Besides being uncomfortable, a runny nose also interferes with your workout and performance especially if you are training for a marathon or running competition in the winter. A dry nose also makes you more susceptible to cold, flu, and allergies especially if you are a regular runner. There are, however, simple steps you can take to help protect your nasal passages and reduce the symptoms of CIR.
Irrigate your sinuses
The best medicine is always prevention. Humidifying your nostrils before and during a run can help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Here are some
- Humidifier: Running a humidifier, while you sleep the night before, is a great way of giving your sinuses some TLC before a morning run in the cold.
- Neti Pot: Alternatively, you can also use a neti pot before and after a run to moisturize the sinuses.
- Saline Nasal Spray: A nasal spray, however, provides the easiest and most accessible option for keeping your sinuses moist and healthy not just before and after the run but also during the run. They are easy to carry in your pocket and can be used often to alleviate symptoms especially if you are a long-distance runner. For best results, use frequently but make sure to choose a non-medicated nasal spray safe for daily use without dangerous and addictive decongestants that aren’t safe for longterm use.
Wear supportive gear
Wearing supportive winter running gear can help CIR. We recommend using a mask that covers the nostrils and the mouth. Wearing a mask protects your nostrils from the cold air and gives the cold air the chance to warm up and humidify before entering the sinuses which is critical for sinus health.
Rule Out Other Illnesses
If you take our recommended steps above but continue to experience a runny nose during your runs, check with your doctor to rule out other conditions that might cause a runny nose like allergies, other infections, and chemical sensitivities which can worsen the runner’s nose symptoms.
The cold and dry air in the winter can be really hard on the runners’ nasal passages and cause a runny nose during and after runs. It is important to take active measures to protect the nostrils and sinuses from dry and cold air. Wearing a protective mask and using a saline nasal spray before and after a run provides the easiest and most effective solutions for treating and preventing CIR.