Reasons for Coughing After Cold-Weather Exercise
Exercising in cold weather can lead to coughing, as the cold air causes airways to tighten and constrict. If you've recently had a cold or other respiratory illness, you may still have congestion, which is exacerbated by exercise in cold weather. But the most common cause of coughing after exercising in cold weather is asthma. By identifying the reason you cough after exercising in cold weather, you can take preventive measures to reduce this side effect.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which lung passageways are blocked due to muscular contractions, swelling or excess mucous. Individuals subject to asthma attacks can be triggered by irritants such as smoke, strong odors, pollen or pet dander. However, exercise and cold weather are also common asthma triggers. While exercising in cold weather, individuals prone to asthma may experience constriction in the chest, wheezing, shortness of breath or coughing -- which is your body's attempt to clear your bronchial passages.
- Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which lung passageways are blocked due to muscular contractions, swelling or excess mucous.
Mouth Breathing and EIB
Bronchitis and Exercise
Some individuals suffer from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB. With this condition, symptoms appear within five to 20 minutes of exercise. According to the Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, mouth breathing can be the cause of EIB. During nose breathing, air is filtered, removing many allergens -- such as pollen and dust -- from the air you breathe. Nose breathing also conditions air with moisture before it enters your lung passageways. When you breathe through your mouth, water loss from airway surfaces can trigger the release of pro-inflammatory agents, which cause bronchoconstriction. Another cause of EIB can be cooling of airways through hyperventilation during exercise, leading to constriction as air passageways warm up.
- Some individuals suffer from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB.
- Another cause of EIB can be cooling of airways through hyperventilation during exercise, leading to constriction as air passageways warm up.
Cold Weather and EIA
Individuals with a pre-existing asthma condition may have asthma attacks triggered by exercise -- called exercise-induced asthma, or EIA. In "Exercise-Induced Asthma," Mariana Shedden, M.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. indicate that hyperresponsiveness to asthma triggers is more common in athletes who train in cold weather. Athletes who frequently train in cold-weather conditions may develop EIA, even when they have no prior history of asthma, because continued exposure of your lung passageways to cold air can damage airways.
- Individuals with a pre-existing asthma condition may have asthma attacks triggered by exercise -- called exercise-induced asthma, or EIA.
- In "Exercise-Induced Asthma," Mariana Shedden, M.S.
- and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. indicate that hyperresponsiveness to asthma triggers is more common in athletes who train in cold weather.
What You Can Do About It
Causes of a Wheezing Cough
If exercising in the cold triggers coughing and an asthma attack, you may need to switch your routine to indoors during cold weather. You might benefit from swimming, since the moist environment of the pool may help you breathe easier. When you go outside in cold weather, wrap your face in a scarf and breathe through the scarf. This warms up the air you breathe and protects your airways.
Your doctor may advise you to take medication before you work out to help avoid an asthma attack. Warming up for 15 minutes before you go outside to exercise, by jogging in place or riding a stationary bicycle, also helps prevent coughing and wheezing after exercise.
- If exercising in the cold triggers coughing and an asthma attack, you may need to switch your routine to indoors during cold weather.
Bronchitis and Exercise
Causes of a Wheezing Cough
What May Cause Shortness of Breath When Walking or Biking?
The Best Exercise for People With COPD
What Causes Burning in the Chest When Walking on the Treadmill?
Remedy for a Bronchitis Cough
Running and Breathing Problems
Reduce Lung Pain After Exercise
Swimming With a Cough
Cardio Exercises & Sinus Pressure
- University of New Mexico: Exercise-Induced Asthma
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: Asthma and Exercise: Tips to Remember
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma facts and figures. Updated June 2019.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergic asthma. Updated September 2015.
- American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Nonallergic asthma.
- Leynaert B, Sunyer J, Garcia-Esteban R, et al. Gender differences in prevalence, diagnosis and incidence of allergic and non-allergic asthma: a population-based cohort. Thorax. 2012;67(7):625–631. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-201249
- Côté A, Turmel J, Boulet LP. Exercise and asthma. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2018;39(1):19-28. doi:10.1055/s-0037-1606215
- Vandenplas O, Suojalehto H, Cullinan P. Diagnosing occupational asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2017;47(1):6-18. doi:10.1111/cea.12858
- Niimi A. Cough and asthma. Curr Respir Med Rev. 2011;7(1):47–54. doi:10.2174/157339811794109327
- Lo PC, Tsai YT, Lin SK, Lai JN. Risk of asthma exacerbation associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in childhood asthma: A nationwide population-based cohort study in Taiwan. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(41):e5109. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000005109
- Sutherland ER. Nocturnal asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005;116(6):1179–1187. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2005.09.028
- Wadhwa R, Dua K, Adcock IM, Horvat JC, Kim RY, Hansbro PM. Cellular mechanisms underlying steroid-resistant asthma. Eur Respir Rev. 2019;28(153) doi:10.1183/16000617.0096-2019
- Zhang Y, Leung DY, Goleva E. Anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid-enhancing actions of vitamin D in monocytes of patients with steroid-resistant and those with steroid-sensitive asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014;133(6):1744-52.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2013.12.004
- Cleveland Clinic. Wheezing. Updated June 30, 2017.
- Mokoka MC, Ullah K, Curran DR, O'connor TM. Rare causes of persistent wheeze that mimic poorly controlled asthma. BMJ Case Rep. 2013;2013. doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-201100
- Bonini M, Polange P. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction: new evidence in pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment Asthma Research and Practice, 2015, 1:2.
- Dicpinigaitis PV. Chronic Cough Due to Asthma: ACCP Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines.
- O'Byrne, P. Patient Information. Exercise-Induced Asthma.
- Tan NC, Nadkarni NV, Lye WK, et al. Ten-year longitudinal study of factors influencing nocturnal asthma symptoms among Asian patients in primary care. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2015; 25: 15064.
- O'Byrne PM. Patient education: Exercise-induced asthma (Beyond the Basics). In: 2017.
- Storms WW. Asthma Associated With Exercise. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 25(1):31-43.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.