Runner’s Itch: Causes and Treatments
Itching in the runner is a sensation that occurs in people who run or do strenuous exercise. There are several causes of this itchy feeling on the skin when exercising.
Typically, itching and allergic symptoms appear on the stomach and legs, although they can appear in any area of the body.
Usually the runner’s itchiness is not a cause for concern, and prevention and treatment are simple. Cases with severe symptoms may require special treatment.
Read on to take a look at what causes the runner’s itchy condition and ways to treat and prevent it.
There are several causes of the runner’s itchiness. We’re going to talk about what could be happening in your body to cause this itchy feeling.
Increased blood flow
If you’ve been sedentary or haven’t exercised in a while, returning to your running routine can make you itchy.
Running increases your heart rate and blood flow as your heart delivers more blood and oxygen to target muscles. This causes your capillaries and arteries to expand and stimulate your nerve cells, which can lead to an itchy feeling.
According to a 2017 research report, exercise may encourage the release of histamine to prevent fatigue, rather than as an allergic reaction. Histamine causes your blood vessels to expand, which contributes to the itching.
You may be particularly prone to runner itching if you have sensitive skin. Allergies to certain detergents, fabric softeners or clothing materials can cause itching. The combination of sweating and dry skin can make irritation worse.
Use laundry detergents made for sensitive skin and buy workout clothes made from moisture-wicking fabrics to prevent sweaty skin. To combat dry skin, apply moisturizer before running.
Exercise-induced urticaria is an allergic reaction that occurs when you experience itching along with hives or redness of the skin.
Additional symptoms can include:
- Stomach cramps
- a headache
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the face, tongue, or hands
Exercise-related urticaria occurs during or after strenuous exercise such as running or hiking, especially if you do these activities in hot or cold weather.
Exercise-related vasculitis is also known as golf vasculitis or hiker rash. Sometimes it is referred to as a Disney rash as it often involves being physically active on a hot day and being exposed to sunlight, as is common in Disney amusement parks.
This inflammatory condition includes red spots, purple spots, and swelling on the thighs and lower legs. The itchy rash is accompanied by intense stinging, pain, and burning.
Genetics can make you more prone to exercise-induced vasculitis. Symptoms usually go away on their own within a few days.
Exercise-related purpura occurs in people who run marathons, take long walks, or engage in unusual physical activities. It is especially common in hot mountain weather.
This condition causes blood stains to appear on the lower legs. However, it usually does not affect the skin, which is compressed by socks.
In most cases, the wounds heal within a few days.
Other possible causes
Other possible causes of the runner’s itchiness include:
- Food allergies
- alcoholic drinks
- Medications, including aspirin
- other allergic reactions
While the runner’s itchiness is uncomfortable, most of the time it is not a cause for concern.
Developing a consistent exercise routine is the best way to prevent runner itching and decrease its intensity. When your body gets used to exercising again, the itchiness usually subsides.
Slow down, take a break, or stop exercising as soon as your symptoms start. If you have a severe case of runner itching that doesn’t get better with treatment, you may need to stop exercising altogether, especially in warm weather.
Try these home remedies to relieve itchy legs:
- Take a warm bath with oatmeal, Epsom salt, or baking soda.
- Apply aloe vera gel, hydrocortisone cream, or a cold compress to the itchy area.
- To improve leg circulation, wear compression stockings and lift your legs several times a day for 15 minutes each time.
Talk to your doctor if itching is accompanied by:
- Difficulty breathing
- Hives that come with severe stinging, pain, or burning that do not go away within 10 minutes
Your doctor can run allergy and exercise tests to determine the cause.
While you may not be able to completely prevent runner itching, you can reduce breakouts.
Running regularly is the best way to avoid itching in the runner. A consistent running routine will increase your blood volume, which means your body doesn’t need to increase blood flow as much. Also, your body is used to the increased blood flow when it occurs.
Use a journal to keep a record of any food or drink that may contribute to the runner itchy so you can observe how your body is reacting. You may need to avoid certain foods or drinks altogether, or consume them a few hours before training.
In severe cases, a prescription for an adrenaline auto-injector (EpiPen) may be required. To prevent symptoms from becoming life-threatening, inject this medication as soon as symptoms develop.
Additional ways to prevent the runner from itching include:
- Taking non-drowsy antihistamines
- Wear workout clothes for hot or cold weather
- with numbing spray
- Bathing and showering with cold or warm water instead of hot water
- Avoid excessive exposure to the sun
- exercise during the coolest part of the day
Usually, the runner’s itchiness is a mild event and not a cause for concern. You can prevent runner itching by running regularly, taking antihistamines, and avoiding triggers like certain foods and drinks.
Take a break or take a break if your runner itches. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms are severe or don’t get better with treatment.