Why Does Your Skin Feel Itchy When You Exercise?

Health Writer

Exercise-induced itching is common and can happen for a variety of reasons. Here are some reasons why your skin may become itchy during your workout, and how to prevent it.

Allergic reaction

Environmental conditions can cause itchy skin as pores open during exercise. Biking through fields full of pollen or swimming in a highly chlorinated pool may cause an allergic reaction. Trying new laundry detergents or lotions also can cause problems. If you suspect an allergic reaction is making your skin itch, taking an over-the-counter antihistamine just before exercising may help. If the skin continues to itch long after your workout is over, you should contact your doctor.

Exercise-induced cholinergic urticaria

Some people show short-lasting hives, called uticaria, when their body temperature increases. These hives usually appear during sweating following exercise or bathing. It is not completely clear why these hives form, but some researchers suspect they occur when people have a reaction to their own sweat. Taking antihistamines after exercise can be helpful for cholinergic urticaria. Cooling down rapidly also may help. Your doctor can help you determine what treatment may be best.

Friction

When skin rubs against skin or clothes, chafing can result. According to a 2004 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, chafing was reported by up to 16 percent of marathon runners who reported to medical tents. Treatment can involve drying the areas thoroughly and applying a drying powder and topical steroid. Athletes can often prevent chafing by wearing well-fitting clothes. Petroleum jelly also can protect areas of skin that rub together.

Infections

A common infection that may cause itchy skin in athletes is tinea cruris, commonly known as jock itch. This is usually seen in men, and occurs around the skin of the genitals. Athlete’s foot is another infection that is common to both men and women. Swimmers or other athletes who share a locker room can contract athlete’s foot, because the organisms responsible thrive in warm, moist places. Athlete’s foot includes dry itchy feet where the skin of the feet sometimes cracks open. If you suspect you have an infection, your doctor may subscribe an antifungal cream for treatment.

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Dr. Tracy Davenport is a health writer, advocate and entrepreneur who has been helping individuals live their best life. She is co-author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux. Follow Tracy’s love of smoothies on Twitter.

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