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The dangers of taking medication and running

Updated on April 20, 2007

We all want to get back out and run after that cold or illness, and even if we are not 100% many of us push to get back out there. We feel that we can "run it off" or "sweet it out". But there are dangers to doing this, not only can exercising while sick cause your full recovery to take longer, but the medications you are taking to combat your illness can have harmful, and sometimes even deadly effects.

Many medications, such as antibiotics, have a dehydrating effect, combine this with running and you put a huge strain on your body. Taking medications while running can also affect heart rate and blood pressure. Some medication can cause weakness or dizziness, which while lying on your couch may be manageable, but out on the open road for a run can become harmful and even deadly.

It is extremely important to consult your doctor about the possible dangers of running or working out while taking a medication, even if it is an over-the-counter drug. It might be better to go for short runs at first and see how you feel or work out in your house to ensure your body can handle it. The last thing you want to do is go for a long run, and once you are far from your house and far from help have some sort of problem.

The following are some possible effects that some common medication may have on your running:

Antibiotics. These comprise a wide variety of chemical compounds, and though most are generally harmless to runners, one class-the fluoroquinolones-can cause weakness and rupture of connective tissue (e.g. tendons), making alternative drugs better choices for athletes. Examples of fluoroquinolones include Cipro and Levaquin.

Antihistamines (Claritin, Allegra). These, can often have a sedating effect although he says the impact of this on exercise relates more to motivation than actual fatigue.

Bronchodilators/Asthma medications (Proventil, Ventolin). Many runners with asthma or exercise-induced asthma rely on drugs of this class for normal breathing function. Although some people may experience an increase in heart rate after using an inhaler, this should not adversely affect performance.

Certain inhalers (Azmacort, Pulmicort) contain corticosteroids-drugs chemically distinct from their cousins, anabolic steroids. If taken correctly, the effects of these steroids on non-respiratory systems are negligible.

Antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft). No problems are known in relation to antidepressants can cause, and actually running clearly helps treat the disease-depression-targeted by these drugs.

Certain older antidepressants, known collectively as tricyclics-Elavil and Pamelor are examples-carry a risk of cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), but this risk is not known to increase with running.

Birth-control pills. Some female runners lose their menstrual periods because of running and birth control pills would obviously restore them. Many women may not like one common side effect of birth-control pills: weight gain.

Hormone-replacement therapy (Premarin). These drugs should not adversely affect running. In fact, given that they help maintain a healthy heart by keeping cholesterol down, one could argue that they are beneficial. They also promote stronger bones, another benefit to runners.

Beta-blockers (Inderal, Tenormin, Lopressor). These medications, which essentially act on the heart as governors do on a car engine, are a definite no-no for any runner. These drugs protect the heart and lower blood pressure by slowing the heart rate, but also prevent it from increasing even during activity.

Other blood-pressure medications (Cardizem, Adalat, Capoten, Vasotec). These should not cause problems, hypertension is generally not a reason to stop running-in fact, running is beneficial to people with high blood pressure. Such drugs are often combined with diuretics (Lasix, Hydrodiuril); doctors urge caution in such cases, noting that diuretics can affect electrolyte balance (sodium, potassium, chloride), thereby impacting heart and muscle function.


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