Running is one of the most popular workouts not only because it’s so effective, but also because you can do it just about anywhere and for free!
Not to mention, running is associated with a wide variety of health benefits from building tough bones and strengthening muscles to burning fat and supporting the heart. When you run, almost your entire body is activated, which triggers faster and deeper breathing.
Unfortunately, there are a few adverse conditions you may encounter as a runner. One of the most common examples is experiencing a sore throat after -or even during- your runs.
This brings us to today’s question: why does my throat hurt after running? The following guide explains the possible reasons for a running sore throat and how you can prevent it from happening.
The Respiratory System While Running
Before we go any further, you should be aware that the impact of running as a regular exercise on the body differs from one person to another depending on several factors including the current state of your health, the way you breathe, as well as the environment where you’re running.
To help you understand the reasons for a sore throat after a run, let’s briefly discuss what happens within the respiratory system during this exercise.
While running, the rate of the natural process of air inhalation and exhalation increases significantly the more you raise your speed. As such, the air passes through your throat cavity more violently towards the lungs, possibly resulting in irritation of the tissues surrounding its path.
As such, a lot of runners are prone to throat soreness while or after running because of their technique and how they breathe during the exercise. Granted, some runners may suffer from acute and intense pain, but others may be dealing with a chronic sore throat that’s more manageable.
Additionally, folks who suffer from exercise-induced asthma can also experience this sort of throat irritation when practicing any form of a workout other than running. Additional causes of sore throat pain may also include nasal congestion, stomach acid reflux, or a bacterial throat infection.
Causes of a Sore Throat after a Run
If you’ve ruled prime reasons for your irritated throat -such as common cold, a bacterial infection, a viral infection, or even rheumatic fever-, then it’s time to look for other culprits out there.
Truth is, there’s a bunch of things that could cause a scratchy throat during or after running. Here are the most common ones:
1. Breathing Through the Mouth
Although the correct way of breathing is through the nose, many people breathe through their mouths instead. There’s no clear reason for why this happens either.
For some, it’s regular for their bodies, whereas for others, breathing through the nose only occurs occasionally like in the case of nasal congestion.
Regardless of why you do it, breathing through your mouth will dry out your throat. Combine this with the fact that running makes you breathe harder than normal, it’s easy to see why your throat hurts during or after a run.
If you’re familiar with what your throat feels like right after waking up from sleeping with a gaping mouth, this is pretty much the same sensation.
2. Reduced Humidity
One of the main causes of a runner’s sore throat is dry air. This is caused by a low level of humidity in the atmosphere, which is likely to irritate your throat while breathing despite not breathing through your nose.
This particular reason is usually an issue only in areas where the general climate is dry such as Las Vegas. However, you may also come across this problem when running indoors on a treadmill in cold weather.
For example, say you turned on the heat at home in winter and you decided to do some running indoors. This can render the air inside the house too dry, reducing the humidity and giving you a front-row seat to throat soreness.
Interestingly enough, other environmental factors such as pollen and air pollution can produce a similar impact on your throat.
3. Too Cold Air
Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran runner, it’s well-established that running in the cold air of the winter feels terrible. If you’ve tried it before, chances are you remember that stabbing, sharp throat/chest pain you get with every breath you take in.
The primary reason for this ache is the sensitivity of your throat to the low temperature of the air, resulting in inflammation and soreness. In the medical scene, this condition is called pharyngitis (not to be confused with laryngitis) that can also cause some difficulty in swallowing.
At this point, you can’t do anything but treat your throat and wait until it heals. You can, however, reduce its incidence by breathing slower when running in cold air.
Also, consider wearing a high-collar shirt or a scarf to keep your throat warm.
4. Acid Reflux
If your schedule is a bit tight and you often end up going for runs right after downing a meal, then the culprit behind your sore throat could be stomach acid reflux.
What happens, in this case, is that the food doesn’t get enough time to be fully digested. This means that the digestive acid is still mostly present in your stomach when you’re running.
The vigorous activity, consequently, shakes and pushes this acid up to reach your mouth. On its way, it burns your throat and you’re left with a soreness sensation.
How to Avoid a Sore Throat after Running
As you can tell by now, the reasons for a sore throat after running are many. The good news is, you can do some preventive measures to avoid unnecessary discomfort and irritation.
Here are a few tips to help you with that:
- Keep your intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages at a minimum.
- Make sure you’re sufficiently hydrated before, after, and during your runs. Pay extra attention to this if the weather is dry.
- Avoid running in areas where the air is prone to pollution.
- If the weather is too cold or the air is too cold, use a treadmill at the gym or at home instead. Another huge plus of running on a treadmill indoors is that you get to use a humidifier to control the moisture levels of the surrounding air.
- Try to be aware of the way you’re breathing during running. You want to breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Don’t go for runs right or shortly after eating a meal. Allow a period of at least 3 hours between consuming food and doing any intense exercise to avoid acid throat pain due to acid reflux.
- If you decide to run outdoors in cold weather, make sure you always wear a scarf or a mask to cover your mouth. This way, cold/dry air doesn’t enter your breathing channels as much.
Final Thoughts On Why Does My Throat Hurt After Running
So why does my throat hurt after running? Well, as you can tell, there are plenty of reasons that can lead to such pain. If it’s not a common cold, a viral infection, or a bacterial infection, it can be your way of breathing, low humidity, cold air, or acid reflux.