You were dealt the exercise urticaria or”Itchy Leg Syndrome” card in your pool of genes- and you hate it. It is the most aggravating sensation that you experience when wearing tight jeans and walking back to your car after work. Exercise urticaria or itchy legs strike you when you muster up the confidence to begin a walking program. However, the itchiness is too much to overcome and your motivation to workout dwindles. You look down at your legs and may or may not see hives or “welts” with are red, raised flat bumps on your skin. The skin rash can be accompanied with stomach cramps, headaches, flushing, difficulty breathing, a choking sensation, or swelling of the face or tongue. Minutes after you stop walking or exercising, your symptoms resolve. These are classic symptoms associated with exercise urticaria.
Before you become convinced that this is God’s way of telling you that you should not exercise, it may mean that you need to exercise more!
You are not alone. In one study, 1.1% of acute cases of urticaria, or skin rash, were exercise-induced. For some reason, the clothing you wear, your change in body temperature or induction of sweat causes this reaction. It also seems to be unrelated to other health conditions or age of onset. However, some experience exercise urticaria from a young age, while others may develop the condition later on in life.
The key in avoiding these terribly annoying symptoms is to plan ahead. Antihistimines, such as Benadryl, can be taken 20-30 minutes before you perform a physical activity that is known to cause itchiness in your legs. Do not wear clothes that cause your legs to itch when you know you will be exercising or walking for long distances. Also, be aware of your walking pace. If you start to feel the itchiness come on, you should slow down your walk or exercise pace to keep symptoms under control. Even if it means resting for a few minutes, it may be worth it.
Of a huge important note- the long-term treatment for exercise urticaria is regular daily exercise, which may help your body adapt to exercise and reduce the recurrence of itchy legs.
FamilyDoctor.org also suggests that eating certain foods may increase your risk of having exercise urticaria:
In some people, eating certain foods before exercise may make allergic symptoms more likely to occur. Keep track of what you eat before exercising for a few weeks. If you notice a pattern to your symptoms that seems related to a certain food, stop eating it for a while and see if the hives stop. Also, your doctor may tell you not to exercise for 4 to 6 hours after you eat.
Changing your lifestyle is an understandable inconvenience, no doubt. But incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle, pre-treating with an antihistamine, changing your exercise pace or wearing clothes that don’t trigger itching episodes are reasonable treatment options to help you avoid exercise urticaria.
Do not hesitate to see your doctor if symptoms do not improve.
What do you do to abort an attack of itchy legs after exercising? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!