Rhinorrhea sounds more like a rhinoceros with diarrhea, but that is actually quite close to what it means, in some way. “Rhino”, referring to the nose and the “rrhea”, simply meaning excess flow. Any runner who lives in a colder climate would have experienced rhinorrhea at one time or another. You know in the middle of winter, when you head out and it seems that you have to clear your nose every few seconds?
One of our followers, Brian McNeill is experiencing excess mucus in the back of the throat. With the nose and throat being so closely linked, it is most likely the mucus is running down the back of the throat (also known as post-nasal drip) causing the problem. So let’s look at the nose and find out why this happens.
The body really doesn’t like cold air. It removes heat from the body meaning it needs more energy to regulate our core temperature. The nose is, in effect, a heater, warming the air before it hits our lungs. The way it does this is by creating mucus to line the nasal passage and the colder the weather, the more it does this. That combined with the fact that cold air is much drier than warm air, the mucus needs to be replenished far more often. The result, rhinorrhea, or excess “snot”.
How do we as runners combat this messy situation? With temperatures in Melbourne quite often dropping near OºC overnight, I too have suffered from this in the past. There are a number of things that can be done to limit this with the first being the most effective, and the most expensive. Simply move to the tropics where it doesn’t get so cold!
Seriously though, we can try to just clear our nose more often so it doesn’t get a chance to head backwards which can cause problems like a throat infection. But carrying a hanky isn’t always convenient and doing the old “snot rocket” or “bushman’s hanky” isn’t always socially acceptable. So let’s look at another way of tackling it.
How about we warm the air up before it hits our nose? You could wear a balaclava, scarf or a neck gaiter around your nose and mouth. Just make sure it’s not too thick as it may restrict your breathing, the last thing you want when running. It should also be easily removed so if you do need to clear your nose, it can be done quickly. I tried this last winter and apart from making the cold a little less of a struggle, it did reduce the frequency of the issue, but didn’t eliminate it.
Really, apart from the first option of moving to a warmer climate, there is no real solution to this problem, just ways to minimize it. It’s not a fitness thing, it’s not a fault with your nose or throat, it’s just your body doing what it does naturally and when we find out the why, it’s easier to work out how to fix it.
Hope this has helped to some extent with your problem Brian and you can continue to run, partly, mucus free.