How can I stop itching when I exercise?

I recently started excercising after finding out that I have high cholesterol. I jog for a few blocks to get my heart rate up, then walk for about half an hour. My problem is, about 10 minutes into the workout I start itching like mad all over. Mostly my thighs, waist and, erm, boobs. I Googled it and came up with a couple solutions, neither of which quite fits. One is an allergic condition that’s triggered by elevated body temperature. I don’t think this is it, though, because it’s accompanied by a rash, which I don’t get, and because I’ve never itched on, say, really hot days or when I had a fever. Another solution was dry skin, which is irritated by sweating (especially the salts, I think). I do have dry skin, but it’s mostly on my face and lower arms and legs – in other words, the only places that don’t itch when I’m exercising. Does anyone else have experience with this or ideas of what it might be and how to stop it? Thanks!

I don’t think you need dry skin for sweating to irritate you. I have got itchy and scratchy on occassion just from sweating. The more often I sweat the less it affects me.

This may be a long shot, but you don’t happen to take a niacin supplement when you work out, do you?

I ask because it’s commonly taken as a workout “booster,” and also to mitigate high cholesterol, so I can easily imagine someone advising you to take it during a regular workout after a diagnosis of high cholesterol.

If you are taking niacin when you work out, then it’s probably just niacin flush.

If not, never mind.

an intersting question – when I get over heated (or just feel hot) I get itchy all over too. I’ve just learned to live with it. Not to thorw a “me too” on the pile, but I am curious to hear a possible explination and solution.

I get these same symptoms. Drives me crazy! Here I am, trying to do the right thing and exercise and bam, I’m itchin so much on the things, tummy and upper arms that I just can’t move except for scratching. For me, these symptoms are indicative of cholinergic hives.

I get a bunch of other types of hives, too: pressure, heat, cold and I have dermographism. Those were all diagnosed by a dermatologist. Once in awhile I get hives for no reason that I’m aware of. I suspect my IgE antibodies are way out of whack sometimes, perhaps because I have hypothyroidism. (A couple medical studies have shown a link between hives and hypothyroidism.)

Anyway, I take antihistimines before exercising, and when I get other hives that last for awhile, which are usually the unexplained ones. Even a weak antihistamine like Claritin does the trick for me.

But, if this is what you’ve got – and please check with a doctor before assuming that it is – you should be aware that it could be life threatening. VERY rarely someone has a bad enough reaction to go into anaphalactic shock.

Could it be a reaction to your clothes soap?

The itchy areas you describe are areas that get alot of “skin on cloth” action. Tons of rubbing as you run, plus sweating, plus perhaps some skin breaking…are you perhaps laundering your skin??

I mean…heat + water will “activate” clothes soap. Perhaps you’re rubbing hard enough to extract some leftover soap (or fabric softener) out of the clothing and it’s getting into your skin from some chafing.

Or, you’re gonna go into anaphalactic shock like Prancer said.

I’m another one that itches when I excercise…especially my thighs. My palms also itch uncontrollably when I’m hot. I don’t understand what it is either. I have no allergies that I know about although the other day I did break out into hives for no apparent reason. I have been getting this palm itching for years now and the excercise itching I’ve had most of my adult life. I’ve learned to live with it and it’s a good excuse for me not to excercise :). It does mean that I have to closely watch my diet though so I don’t pack on the lbs.

These symptoms sound like cholinergic urticaria. In most cases it is treatable by antihistamines. See your doctor. Cetirizine (Reactine or Zyrtec) works well for this purpose.

Just the idea of exercising makes me itch. :smiley:

I agree with JHW3, it being Cholinergic Urticaria or exercise-induced hives. I’ve lived with this for over 10 years. For me, it gradually became noticeable or more frequent, so I never thought much about it until it got bad. I couldn’t figure it out and finally one day had a new GP doctor who suggested it was exercise-induced.

For me, I’ve discovered it’s specific to impact-heavy exercise: riding a stationary bike, using a stairmaster, or hiking uphill, I’m ok. But jogging, walking on pavement, or hiking downhill starts the itch after a few minutes. For me it starts at the thighs, then belly, then chest, then neck.

Taking an antihistamine (even the non-drowsy ones) before the exercise prevents it totally for me. If I forget and I go on a hike & start itching, taking Benadryl equivalent somewhat reduces it. It was thanks to this board that I learned the difference btw. Benadryl type antihistamines vs. Claritin type antihistamines for treating the itch, rather than preventing it in the first place.

There’s now a lot of web info on excercise induced hives (~4 years ago, when my GP suggested it was the cause, I couldn’t find much).

This article talks about the diff btw excercise-induced hives and exercise-induced Anaphylaxis, which may be the life threatening condition mentioned above.

I browsed it but couldn’t understand all of it. It seems to say they are 2 totally different conditions, so my hives could NOT one day be life-threatening anaphylaxis. However, there was one time I was on a hike and we were rushing to get back before our boat left, so I was half running half walking downhill ignoring the itch (which was pretty much everywhere by then), and suddenly I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I had had plenty of wind left in me, I just felt like my lungs weren’t expanding. Scary, but it went away after I stopped and let all the itching subside.

I have been running regularly for over a year now and my thighs itch too. I just deal with it. I always assumed it was increased blood circulation. Another example of this for me is when I use those vibrating back massager things and its makes me itchy.

Does it seem to be linked with your clothes in any way? I tend to sweat a lot when I exercise and if I wear cotton it gets wet and nasty and will stick/itch/make me uncomfortable.

So I never wear cotton when I work out - wool socks and some lightweight thermal shorts (under my nylon jogging shorts) and t-shirt (you can find this stuff at any sporting goods store, I tend to buy the cheap REI boxers and t-shirts). Keeps me cooler and more comfy.

Reason I ask is that your thighs, waist and chest are all areas that will rub against clothing when you move and/or will get pretty sweaty.

Could some of it be from increased blood flow?

I get physical therapy on my legs and back. After the massage bed or electric masagers are used, I itch like mad. The therapist said it’s because the blood has been drawn to the surface of the skin which isn’t used to it.

I don’t think it’s cholinergic urticaria because the OP is describing something way too close to what happens to me and there are no hives associated with it.

I’ve noticed mechanical shock tends to precipitate it. I can go jogging and be fine until I start going down a hill or stop and stomp a bit to burn off speed. Then the itching starts. It’s also never happened to me on a treadmill, though I usually hop on that with little/no warm-up and run longer (since there’s nothing interesting to stop and look at).

It also doesn’t feel like the skin is itchy. I dunno, I thought of it like the fat moving around irritating the hell out of deep connective tissue. It’s more like the surface of the muscle is itching.

I don’t know if that matches TWO’s experience, though.

Thanks to everyone for your help. I’m quite sure it isn’t Cholinergic Urticaria because I don’t get any kind of rash or hives. I went out again last night and even though it was quite a bit warmer than it has been lately, I hardly itched at all. The only difference, as far as I could tell, was that it was also much windier last night. So I’m guessing maybe the itching is caused by sweat remaining on the skin, rather than quickly evaporating. Either that or, like Death Ray suggested, it’s just a matter of my body getting used to sweating.

This may be it. My wife was never very interesting in exercising but after she met me we started going to the gym together and she complained about itching when she worked out. A couple of things that we noticed:

  1. It was worst right when she first worked up a sweat, and then got better as she sweated more.

  2. It was worse if she was dehydrated when she started working out. If she had consumed enough water beforehand the itching wasn’t nearly so bad.

  3. Over the course of several months of exercising the itching gradually dwindled and went away.

We finally concluded that her skin just wasn’t used to having salty sweat on it. And that being dehydrated made it worse because the sweat was more concentrated.

I had crazy itchy problems for the longest time (though for me it was in the winter months) and seemed most closely related to dry skin. I managed to control it with regular use of moisturizer and drinking a fair amount of water.