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Ask the Expert: Why Do I Get a Runny Nose When I’m Cycling?

And is there anything that can be done about it?

Why do I get a runny nose when I’m on my bike? Is there anything I can do to stop or prevent it?

Getting a runny nose on the bike is a given. So we got to wondering whether there were any steps we could take to minimise the annoyance of a leaking schnoz while exercising, also known as exercise-induced rhinitis.

We contacted the British Association of Otorhinolaryngology (that’s the representative body for nose and throat doctors in the UK) and they put us in touch with the extremely overqualified surgeon Professor Nirmal Kumar.

He reliably informed us that, no, there is no way to stop getting a runny nose when you cycle. It pretty much sucks.

“There’s nothing you can do to change it,” says Prof. Kumar. “It’s normal physiology!”

Invest in some cycling gloves to get wiping with!

He went on to explain what causes the unpleasant stream of snot we’re all so familiar with: “The sympathetic nervous system ensures you produce a lot of hormones when you exercise, and these create swelling in the nasal passage. The nasal lining engorges and produces lots of secretions.”

The sympathetic nervous system ensures your body ticks over nicely and is also in charge of your fight-or-flight response. So when you start cycling, or doing any kind of exercise, this is stimulated. Because you’re flight-ing.

Your nose produces mucus to help fight infection, and this effect increases when you exercise. This helps stop foreign particles (dust, dirt, blueberry muffin crumbs) from entering your body and causing problems. Ain’t your body cool?

So what should you do? Invest in some cycling gloves to get wiping with!

Enjoy Why Do I Get a Runny Nose When I Cycle? Try the rest of our Ask the Expert series:

Ask the Expert: Why Should I Change to Winter Tyres?

Ask the Expert: Why do Men Overtake me Seconds After I Have Passed Them?

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