courtesy of Flickr user ceiling

Does jogging make you itch? I remember those mile runs in grade school when my thighs would end up with a strange tingly itchy slightly swollen feeling and covered with faint pink blotches. Turns out that this is a condition called vibratory urticaria. It’s caused by mast cells which get stimulated by vibration to release histamine and other contents. In this case the histamine and contents inside of mast cells leads to itching, swelling and redness. While many people report vibratory urticaria happening with jogging, it can also occur when operating machinery such as lawnmowers, jackhammers, etc. I just have a mild case of vibratory urticaria. Some people can develop more intense swelling or a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis with exercise. Rise in body temperature itself can also cause urticaria (hives) and occlusion of hair follicles after exercise can cause folliculitis. So there are all sorts of skin conditions that can happen with exercise!

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14 Responses to Does jogging make you itch?

  1. Mark says:

    i think i have this…
    i started jogging with my father to help him get into exercise…
    after 15 minutes or so, i felt itching in my thighs and legs..i thought they were just some itchy plants..but there’s no swelling going on..itching and redness yes..

  2. Phern says:

    I experience this also. I thought it’s just normal because I don’t exercise regularly.

  3. Andrea says:

    YES YES YES!! This is what I’ve had since about 15 years old!! I’ve always been told it was laundry detergent, dry skin, air outside, etc etc. But I always knew the only common denominator was my running. For some reason I can do other forms of cardio just fine, but it’s the jostling motion of running that sends me into an itching frenzy!! It’s so intense it feels like poison ivy, but if I can suffer through it for about 10-15 minutes, it eventually goes away and doesn’t come back after that. I also notice I can breathe easier after the itching episode stops…does this have to do with some sort of vasodilation process? I’ve also noticed that if I keep on running on a regular basis, I won’t get a recurrence from the itching. But if I take a break and start up again, it comes back for that first run with a vengeance!! I’m so glad someone has put a real name to this. I knew I had exercise induced urticaria after researching this as an adult. Is there anything you can do to help it?

    • Susan Huang MD says:

      Hi Andrea, Same thing with me. I can play tennis, use the elliptical machine or stair stepper but jogging/running on the treadmill will elicit the discomfort. Something about the vibration or physical stress causes releases of factors that mediates itching, pain, swelling, vasodilation, etc. Have you seen a physician for the shortness of breath though? You should consider it because you could have a even more serious reaction to the exercise (there’s even an exercise induced anaphylaxis) or there may be another cause of the shortness of breath.

      • Andrea says:

        Oh sorry I wasn’t clear, I don’t have shortness of breath, I just meant that after the itching episode stops it feels like I have a ton of energy and suddenly I can breathe even easier than before, kind of like the running is hardly a work out at all. Before the episode starts I breathe normal, I just breathe even better after. Isn’t that odd??

        • Andrea says:

          And I mean I breathe even better after the itching episode stops *while* I’m still running!

        • Susan Huang MD says:

          That’s really interesting! Does this happen pretty much each time you run?

          • Andrea says:

            The urticaria episodes seem to only happen after I’ve taken a little time off from running, even as short as a week. So my first run is always awful because it’s guaranteed I will go through the episode. But if I keep up the running on a consistent basis it won’t come back. It’s almost like I become desensitized so long as I maintain the running. Unfortunately I don’t always have time to run every day. And that feeling of breathing so well always occurs after I get through the itching part. I normally run about 30 minutes on the treadmill, and my episodes last around 10-15 minutes of that time. My itchiness is so intense it feels like poison ivy. It affects my stomach, buttocks, and legs. And when it starts to relieve I can literally feel it leave starting from top to bottom until the itch is at my ankle. If I scratch at all, the itchiness gets even more intense and I flare up in these big huge red welts that take days to go away! I considered taking a Benadryl before any plans to run but I’m not sure I want to be doped up and drowsy before I intend to exercise :). Is there any harm to be sedated and then work your heart rate up with exercise? I’m also an RN, so this type of stuff is really interesting to me…

          • Susan Huang MD says:

            Yeah, I’ve heard others talk about the ‘desensitization’ effect that you describe. In terms of getting doped up and drowsy, I’m not so sure about being sedated while doing exercise either! Definitely not a conventional pairing. Unfortunately, we just don’t have really rigorous research studies on exercise/vibratory urticaria… Very interesting though.

  4. LaToya RN says:

    I have this anytime I walk briskly, jog or use the treadmill. I thought I was allergic to exercise. I would take a benadryl before going to the gym.

  5. Amy says:

    I aways get itchy when I walk fast or jog, what can you do to help it? Can you take an antihistimine?

    • Susan Huang MD says:

      Hi Amy, Antihistamines can be helpful in vibratory and exercise-induced urticaria. Hope you found the post helpful!

  6. Katie says:

    Andrea,
    I have a nearly identical issue as you. I used to be a competitive runner until I started getting incredibly itchy w/ runs, especially after taking some time off between runs. I too can extinguish it by running every day. I have now switched sports completely. I switched to rowing crew, since it’s still aerobic but doesn’t make me break out in hives like jogging and even walking do. I think the main trigger is the pounding that is associated w/ running, since I get it irrespective of what types of clothing I wear, weather, diet, and intensity of exercise. Interestingly, I get a very mild form of hives on my arms when I mountain bike over rough terrain. I suspect we have vibratory urticaria since the common denominator is the vibration.

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