Why Do You Cough Up Blood After Running?
The health benefits of running are well known and wide reaching. Regularly hitting the treadmill or the streets can improve your muscle tone and strength, your cardiovascular health, your mental well-being, and your overall fitness levels.
However, running enthusiasts who enjoy a more intense workout may find themselves coughing or wheezing a lot afterward, and some may even notice a metallic taste of blood.
Coughing up blood after a run can be alarming, and although is often linked to the intensity of your workout, may indicate underlying health issues that need to be addressed.
So why are you coughing up blood after running, and what can you do to prevent it?
Causes of Coughing Up Blood After Running
The medical term for coughing up blood is hemoptysis. Coughing or spitting blood after you run could be caused by a variety of different factors, ranging from harmless irritation of the airways to more serious underlying medical conditions.
It is always best to consult with your doctor if you taste or spit blood after exercise, as this is the surest way to determine what the problem is and get the appropriate treatment, if necessary.
There are several possible reasons why you are coughing up blood after your run:
+ Chest Infections
Chest infections such as bronchitis (acute or chronic) are the most common cause of coughing up blood after running.
Although this is rarely life-threatening, bronchitis still requires treatment with prescribed antibiotics, so you should consult with your doctor if you think this applies to you.
In the meantime, take a break from your exercise regime to give your lungs and airways chance to rest and recover.
+ Dehydration of Air Passages
If your throat feels raw, or you notice a burning sensation in your throat when coughing after exercise, you may be coughing up blood as a result of dryness in your airways and throat.
This is particularly common among people who regularly exercise in excessively cold, dry air such as the air-conditioned environment of the gym, or outdoors during winter.
The increased movement of cold air through the lungs as a result of heavy breathing during intense exercise can dry and irritate the airways, causing them to become inflamed.
The act of coughing can then cause minor tears to form in the fragile mucosal lining of the lungs, allowing small amounts of blood to enter the airways.
+ Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Edema
People who taste or a cough up blood after they run usually do so after a particularly intense bout of exercise. This can put increased pressure on the capillaries in the lungs, and in extreme cases, this can cause them to fail, leading to bleeding in the lungs.
This is known as Exercise Induced Pulmonary Edema and is most commonly seen in elite athletes. This condition may apply to you if you are training intensely for a particularly grueling event, such as a marathon.
Although this condition is not thought to be harmful, it may not be advisable to regularly push your body to such extremes when training.
Limiting particularly intense exercise to just once or twice a week may help to prevent this from happening, preventing you from coughing up blood after you run.
+ Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB)
Also known as exercise-induced asthma, EIB is a condition where the airways narrow during exercise, restricting the movement of air in and out of the lungs. This can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest after you run.
When your coughing becomes severe, this can irritate the air passages in the lungs and throat, causing them to bleed. EIB is exacerbated by running in cold, dry air, so if you usually work out in the air-conditioned environment of the gym it may be time to consider switching to outdoor running.
EIB is also often made worse by exposure to allergens such as pollen, so taking an antihistamine in the morning, before your run, may help to relieve your symptoms. Talk with your doctor to discuss the best treatment options for you.
+ Serious Medical Conditions
In most cases, coughing up blood after running is merely due to increased stress on the capillaries in the lungs, irritation of the throat and airways, or a chest infection, such as bronchitis.
However, for some people, it may be symptomatic of a more serious medical condition, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, pulmonary embolism, or lung cancer.
If you constantly cough up blood after exercise, you are advised to seek the advice of a doctor, who will be able to perform the necessary diagnostic tests required to rule out anything more serious.
Other Risk Factors
Certain lifestyle and workout choices can put you more at risk of coughing up blood after you run. Specific risk factors include:
Smoking has a great many unpleasant effects on the body and health, one of which is that it causes damage to the tissues of the lungs and airways.
If you smoke excessively, this can cause you to cough up blood after you run. The best course of action, in this case, is to quit the habit, which usually clears up symptoms quickly.
+ Exercise at High Altitudes
If you regularly exercise at high altitudes, this could also be causing you to cough up blood. Reduced oxygen in the atmosphere and low air pressure at high altitudes can cause a condition known as acute mountain sickness.
This can result in a bloody cough after exercise but is usually alleviated by taking a rest and returning to lower altitudes.
+ Certain Medications
Blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin, can stop your blood from clotting. This means that any small tear in the mucosal lining of the airways, or any failure of the capillaries during intense exercise, causes noticeable bleeding into the airways.
Running is one of the best forms of exercise you can take in terms of maintaining a healthy weight, boosting your cardiovascular fitness, and improving your muscle health and strength.
This can keep you looking trim and feeling fantastic, and can also help to prevent a whole host of chronic illnesses later in life.
However, if you find yourself coughing blood after you run, it is important that you visit your doctor so you can identify and treat the underlying causes.
In many cases, coughing or spitting blood after exercise is not a symptom of any serious medical condition. However, addressing the issue early is the best way to prevent it from happening in the future, so you can get back to your fitness regime quickly, and reap the full benefits of your exercise.