Sore Throat When Running? Common Causes & Helpful Tips

man running in cold weather

If you’re out there pounding pavement and really putting in your all to stay fit and healthy, then you might be wondering why your throat feels a bit scratchy after or during your run. 

Why does my throat hurt after running? used to be one of the most common things that I’d hear from my running buddies, until we did a bit of research on why this happens.

So, if you’ve had some throat pain while you’re running, or after a run, then we’ve got some answers for you. We’ve also got some tips on solutions that you might want to try before your next run.

4 Causes of Running Sore Throat

If you’ve ruled out the obvious – that you might be sick or coming down with something – then it’s time to look into what might be the culprit here. Turns out there are few different things that can lead to a scratchy, sore throat from running.

You’re Breathing Through Your Mouth

For whatever reason, sometimes we end up breathing through our mouth instead of our nose. For some people, this is just the norm and for others it’s something that happens from time to time – like when you’re congested.

Why you’re breathing through your mouth doesn’t really matter though.

The act of breathing through your mouth makes your throat dry. And since you’re breathing hard while you’re running, that really irritates your throat and leaves it feeling sore during and after the run.

It kinda leaves your throat feeling the way it does if you’ve woken up from snoring with your mouth open, if ya know what I mean.

The Humidity Is Too Low

Dry air is one of the top causes of runner’s sore throat, and that’s because the lack of humidity really irritates your throat as you’re breathing. Even if you’re not breathing out of your mouth!

Obviously this is a problem in dry climate regions, like in Las Vegas where I live, but it can also be problematic when you’re running on a treadmill indoors.

For instance, if you have the heat on during the winter, then it might make the indoor air of your home too dry. And that lack of humidity means you’ve got a first class ticket to a sore throat.

What’s interesting too is that environmental allergens, like air pollution and pollen, have the same effect on your throat. It’s almost like they suck the moisture right out of the air that you’re breathing in, just leaving the allergen to irritate your throat.

The Air Is Too Cold

You probably already know how terrible it feels to run in the cold winter air, and you’re likely even familiar with that sharp, stabbing pain you get when running in cold air. That’s because your throat is sensitive to the cold temperature.

That sensitivity to cold air often causes inflammation in your throat, which makes it feel sore and achy. It’s called pharyngitis and it can also cause scratchiness in the throat and difficulty swallowing.

Once you reach this point, you basically have to treat the sore throat and wait for it to heal. But you can prevent it by inhaling and exhaling slower when the air is cold. 

You can also wear a scarf or neck gaiter to keep your throat warmer out in the cold weather.

You’ve Got Acid Reflux

If you’re short on time, then you might be doing your runs shortly after eating a meal. This is a bad idea because your food is not going to be digested fully, which means acid reflux can come into play.

As you’re running, that vigorous activity actually jostles that stomach acid right back up into your mouth. It burns your throat a bit on the way, leaving you feeling like you’ve got a sore throat from the run – but it’s really from the stomach acid burning it’s way up and down your throat.

How To Prevent Sore Throats From Running

Now that you know some of the things are are causing those sore throats you’ve been experiencing from your runs, it’s time to look at some solutions to keep your throat feeling good.

Here’s some options for you:

  • Be conscious of how you’re breathing on your runs and only inhale and exhale out your nose. Avoid breathing through your mouth.
  • Use a humidifier for treadmill runs to regulate the indoor humidity and avoid dry air.
  • Don’t run in dry air outside or when allergens are high, such as bad air quality or high pollen count.
  • Drink more water, and more frequently, when running to keep your throat wet and prevent from getting dry.
  • Inhale and exhale slower when the air is cold.
  • Wear a scarf or neck gaiter to keep your throat warmer out in the cold weather.
  • Don’t go for a run until your food is digested after a meal.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a few different scenarios that lead to you developing a sore throat from running. But by following our tips, you can take steps to prevent that sore throat from happening to you.

But if you’re already developed a legit sore throat, then take some time off running so that you can treat it and get better. You may also want to consult with a physician to make sure that you don’t have something like strep throat where you need a round of antibiotics. 

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