Phlegm & Coughing After Exercise
After any sort of cardio workout, like jogging or anything else that gets me breathing hard, I always get extreme congestion in my chest and lots of phlegm and coughing. Most recently, I had a hard workout yesterday that really pushed me and I couldn't stop coughing for hours (my fiancé asked me if I was sick). Today I am STILL coughing up phlegm. I should say, this is NOT a chest cold, this has happened to me my whole life. Is this normal being out of shape, or is it exercise-induced asthma? How can I tell if it is, and who can diagnose me? I am not sure what to do, but it's very debilitating. Thanks!
Feeling slightly short of breath or fatigued when exercising can be normal, especially if you do not exercise regularly. Also, for some people, vigorous physical activity (e.g. running) can trigger slight respiratory irritations. When a person exercises vigorously, he or she is breathing faster and processing more oxygen than when at rest. When someone is breathing normally at rest, the air is moistened and warmed through the nasal passage before entering the lungs. The nasal passage also catches debris that is inhaled (e.g. dust). However, when people exercise, they tend to breathe air through their mouth more than through their nose, which can cause dry, cool, and particle-filled air to go directly to the lungs, which can cause respiratory irritation that leads to coughing. Coughing is the body’s natural response to clear the airway of unwanted debris, including mucus build-up. However, coughing and mucus buildup from respiratory irritations usually discontinue shortly after exercise.
Chest tightness paired with mucus buildup and coughing during and/or after vigorous physical activity may likely represent exercise-induced asthma, but could also be the result or combination of allergies, environmental irritants, respiratory conditions, and/or an acute or chronic illness (such as sinusitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, hay fever, and respiratory syncytial virus). The color of the mucus (phlegm) is important in determining whether or not the condition is due to asthma or an infection. If the mucus is clear, it is likely not an infection. However, if the mucus is yellow to greenish, it is most likely an infection.
I would recommend that you see a health care provider as soon as possible for proper diagnosis. If you have exercise-induced asthma, there are prescriptions available that can help you to feel more comfortable during exercise and can also help to prevent more serious consequences from occurring (e.g., an asthma attack). You can schedule an appointment with a health care provider at Student Health Service by calling 319-335-8394.
Source: Mayo Clinic