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More affectionately referred to as ‘runner’s itch,’ it leaves some of us unglamorously clawing at our legs at the side of the track. Hopefully, it doesn’t put you off exercising ever again. There are many different reasons and hypotheses for this phenomenon, ranging from simple issues easily rectified with small changes to your running routine to natural, biological reactions you need to take medicine for. Let’s take a look at some of the common causes!
A commonly cited reason for itching is that after a period of not exercising, your blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow, but your body is not accustomed to this new vascular equilibrium. As a result, the nerves around those blood vessels send messages to the brain signalling “itchy!”
There is nothing much you can do about this, except to adopt a more regular exercise routine. If the itching gets unbearable, you could use a numbing spray, but it is not recommended.
Dry skin itches on its own, but sweating when you run will make it worse. Fortunately, this is not too big of a problem. Apply moisturiser before you run, preferably the kind that is perfume-free and does not use any ingredients that could cause allergic reactions, and you’re ready to go! When in doubt, look for the word ‘hypoallergenic’ for reassurance.
Are you wearing anything that’s too tight-fitting, or trying out a new garment made from a different material? The friction between tight clothing and your skin may cause rashes and itching. New fabrics that you’ve never tried before may also irritate your skin, causing you to itch. If you find that itching arises after you try running with a new kind of garment, it’s best to switch back to what you’ve always been running with or buy something similar the next time you go shopping.
Histamine is typically released by the body to increase blood flow to a particular area of the body that needs it. Unfortunately, it also sends ‘itch’ signals to the brain, causing all kinds of discomfort. You can counter this by taking antihistamines, about thirty minutes before your workout. Some antihistamines can be bought over the counter while others need a doctor’s prescription. To be safe, we recommend talking to your doctor about which kind you should be taking for your itch. Never self-prescribe!
“There are many different reasons and hypotheses for this phenomenon, ranging to simple issues easily rectified with small changes to your running routine to natural, biological reactions you need to take medicine for.”
Itching when you run doesn’t mean you have an allergy to exercise. As tempting as it may be to use this as an excuse to slack off and return to your couch potato lifestyle, this is a problem that is easily solved. So keep running and stay healthy!
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