Why does my throat hurt after I run

Why Does My Throat Hurt After I Run? 5 Reasons and What You Can Do About It

Ever gone on a run only to discover that your throat hurts afterwards?  If you have ever found yourself wondering “why does my throat hurt after I run?”, here are the 5 main culprits to be aware of, and what you can do about it!


Why does my throat hurt when I run

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5 Reasons Your Throat Hurts After A Run


#1: Breathing Through Your Mouth 

When you work out, you are taking in more oxygen.  This can sometimes cause us to even subconsciously breathe through our mouths in an attempt to gulp in more oxygen as we run.  The human body was meant to function best when you breathe through your nose, however.  


Breathing through your mouth, especially when running or performing any strenuous physical exercise, can dry out your throat, and for some people, this can cause irritation and soreness.  If possible, make a conscious effort to breathe through your nose and not your mouth when running.  In a recent study conducted on the effects of nasal or oral breathing on anaerobic output, it was shown that breathing through your nose not only helps to prevent your throat from hurting after a run, but it actually yields a higher heart rate and better performance.  


You may find yourself having to resort to breathing through your mouth if you have nasal congestion or a nasal obstruction, but if you find yourself struggling long term to breathe through your nose and not your mouth due to some other issue of poor nose airflow, even when making a conscious effort to breathe through your mouth, it may be time to inquire with a ear/nose/throat doctor.  


#2: Cold Air

Cold air tends to be very dry, and when your throat gets dry it can hurt.  This is another reason why it is important to try and breathe through your nose.  The nose contains mechanisms that not only filter air, but warm and moisturize air.  Breathing through your mouth bypasses this process, and can make your throat hurt during and after a run as it is exposed to cold, dry air.    


One of the worst sore throats I ever experienced after running took place after a half marathon on the polar ice sheet in Greenland.  Not only were the temperatures below freezing, but there is almost no humidity in Greenland, or precipitation!  That is a combo that can be quick to cause a sore throat when running.  So going into that situation, I had to be sure to equip myself with a breathable gaiter like this BUFF, and then treat my sore throat afterwards with hot liquids like tea and honey.

Cold weather can make your throat hurt after a run
Cold, dry air can cause your throat to hurt after a run


#3: Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, which you may not even notice and can be “silent”, can cause throat soreness and irritation, and you might notice this more after running because running can aggravate the situation.  If you go for a run too soon after eating, the up and down motion of running can cause acid to slosh around and get in the back of your throat, therefore causing irritation.  If you notice this problem occurring, try to wait a couple hours after eating before going for a run.  Also, you can reduce your intake of highly acidic foods.  


#4: Environmental Pollutants

Environmental pollutants like smoke from a wildfire or smog, or dust and pollen, can cause your throat to hurt after a run.  If you notice your throat hurting after a run, check the local weather’s assessment of environmental pollutants or allergens, and make a determination on whether running outside is conducive to your situation or not.  When there are aggressive environmental pollutants, like smoke from a nearby wildfire, it is recommended to switch to running inside temporarily.


#5: Dry Conditions

We usually think of cold air irritating throats after a run, but it can happen in very dry, hot environments too.  Dry conditions, whether hot or cold, can cause your throat to hurt after a run.  This is because there is low humidity in both cases, and this causes the lining of your throat to dry out.  When the humidity levels drop below 40%, you may notice increased throat soreness after a run.  


7 Tips to Prevent A Sore Throat After Running


#1: Breathe Through Your Nose

It is really important to emphasize trying to breathe through your nose. That’s the #1 best thing you can do to help prevent a sore throat during or after a run.  In fact, the American Lung Association lists mouth breathing as the top way you might be breathing wrong!  


If breathing through your nose feels like a struggle for you due to poor airflow, it might be beneficial to see an ear/nose/throat specialist.  If you are running in cold temperatures, it is even more important to breathe through your nose, as the nose warms and moisturizes incoming air, which can help to prevent cold air from hurting your throat.  Breathing through your nose also helps to filter out environmental pollutants which can irritate your throat.  When you breathe through your mouth, you are more directly exposed to potential environmental irritants that have not been filtered.  


#2: Protect Your Face

If you are experiencing a sore throat after a run due especially to cold temperatures, you can help mitigate this problem by wearing something to protect your face and help warm up the temperature of the air you are breathing.  A breathable gaiter or a BUFF is best.  Avoid a full face cover, like a heavy duty ski mask, however, as that can cause precipitation build up, which is hazardous in cold temperatures.


#3: Address Acid Reflux

If your throat hurts due to acid reflux, wait several hours after eating before running and reduce your intake of highly acidic foods like fruit juice, soft drinks, and even some dairy products.  You can try acid reflux tablets and pills, or if the problem still does not resolve, you can visit a ear/throat/nose doctor.  


#4: Hydrate!  

Don’t forget to hydrate consistently and regularly when running, especially if you notice you are susceptible to your throat hurting after a run.  And in environments that may be especially dry with low humidity levels.  Moisture always helps!


#5: Don’t Run in Environmental Hazards

Environmental pollutants can irritate your throat during and after a run.  If there is smoke from a nearby wildfire or heavy smog, avoid running outside.  If pollen and allergens are flaring up, avoid running outside.  Run inside on a treadmill instead, at least temporarily.  Anytime I travel out west during the summer, I have to check the weather alerts and National Forest websites for wildfire notices to make sure it is healthy and safe for me to run in that gorgeous California, Arizona, and New Mexico scenery!


#6: Minimize Exposure in Extremely Dry Conditions

Whether hot or cold, extremely dry conditions can cause your throat to hurt after a run.  If you notice you are struggling with a sore throat after running, it may be time to minimize your time spent running in extremely dry conditions when humidity is low, or take preventative measures like wearing a breathable gaiter in winter to help warm up the air you breathe.  Or running inside on a treadmill and using a humidifier.  


#7: Home Remedies

Drinking warm liquids like teas with honey and/or lemon, gargling salt water (1/4th tsp to 4 oz), and using a humidifier in your home can all help to alleviate a sore throat after running.  

Note: while some runners deal with sore throats by sucking on lozenges during their runs, this is a very temporary fix, and is actually not recommended as it can pose a choking hazard. A lozenge can help soothe a sore throat after a run, but addressing some of these other issues can have a more successful and long term result. 


Running involves the whole body, so it’s no wonder that there are lots of things that can flare up when you run regularly.  So what else ails you?





Why does my throat hurt after I run

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