Does Running Make A Sinus Infection Worse?

Exercise is a great way to boost your overall health. Running, for example, can provide a number of health benefits. But when you have sinus infection (infection and inflammation of sinuses, air-filled cavities in the skull), should you take a few days off from exercise? Does running make the problem worse?

Sinus infection

Also known as ‘sinusitis’, it is a quite common condition. In the U.S, for example, it affects about 37 million people each year. The infection can lead to inflammation and block teeny holes that link the nasal passages and sinuses. This blockage causes buildups of mucus, which will worsen the problem.

When you have sinusitis, the mucus of your nasal passages cannot drain out as well as usual. This can lead to a number of symptoms, such as:

  1. Nasal congestion.
  2. Nasal discharge, a runny nose. The discharge could be yellow, green, or clear.
  3. Persistent cough, difficult to improve.
  4. Headache.
  5. Facial pain or pressure, typically over the affected sinus.

Other symptoms include high temperature (fever), toothache, fatigue (tiredness), decreased smell sense, sore throat, and bad breath.

The underlying cause of the problem is not always easy to understand. Sometimes it is trickier to figure out. The problem can be attributed by many factors. One of the main ones is virus. In fact most cases occur after a common cold event.

The good news, sinus infection caused by viral infection is usually mild and often gets better in time with nothing more than rest and fluid. But if the infection is associated with bacteria, fungus, or something else – medication may be required.

The complications of the condition are rare – it is rarely associated with serious problem. But if it has followed its complications, some could be dangerous. Furthermore, in a few cases there are particular health conditions behind the problem.

Thus, it’s also important to understand when to seek immediate medical help. See your doctor promptly if the symptoms get worse or last longer than you expect. Mild sinusitis will improve less than a month. But it also can be chronic, lasts longer than 3 months.

Does running make your sinus infection worse?

The answer is dependent on the symptoms of the condition and how well you are. Again sinus infection symptoms are usually mild. Oftentimes, they should not be severe enough to keep you in bed. In general, exercising with mild sinusitis symptoms may be OK – this is particularly true if you have been so great about your exercise routine before.

Exercise, including running, is excellent booster for the performance of your body immune system. About 3 minutes of moderate, regular exercise (3-4 times a week) may help boost the levels of your T cells, which play a part in your body’s first defenses against invader and infection.

And stronger immune system is what you need when your body is fighting against infection. Furthermore, mild-moderate physical activity may even help improve your nasal congestion, because it can help open you nasal passages.

But although your exercise is helpful to provide a mental and physical boost, there other occasions when you need to take a break (this is particularly true when going for a run may carry more risks than good).

If the symptoms get worse (you have high fever for example), hitting the treadmill is a definite no-no! Exercise with fever could be counterproductive or even dangerous.

During exercise, you will have raising body temperature internally. And if you already have fever (particularly higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), your high body temperature can go to overdrive. This will make you even sicker!

Just make sure that you know your limits. The simply formula is, “Do what you can do – but don’t do it if you can’t do it!” If you’re active and fit, you may tend to feel worse if you stop your exercise. But if you have a bad case of sinusitis, it’s more important to get more rest and fluid.

If there is particular underlying condition behind the problem, it’s much better to discuss with your doctor first! For example, in a few cases sinus infection is linked to exercise-induced rhinitis (EIR). For such cases, strenuous physical activities such as endurance running may make sinus infection worse.

EIR is a lot like allergic rhinitis, a term of diagnosis associated with a group of nasal symptoms that develop when you breathe in allergen or something you’re allergic to (such as air pollution, pollen, animal dander, dust, etc – sometimes symptoms can also flare up after eating a food you’re allergic to).

In people with EIR, exercise can trigger their allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge (runny nose), congestion, and itchiness. The flare-up is particular more common in the winter. Fortunately EIR is more of a nuisance and doesn’t pose to serious health risk. But if it often flares up, a nasal spray may help before exercise. Ask a doctor for more advice!

For summary, see the following table of when exercise (including running) is OK or bad with sinus infection: