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Itchy Legs When You Walk or Exercise

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Updated August 31, 2013

Walking Legs

Walking Legs

Wendy Bumgardner © 2012
You are not alone: I have had a handful of writers ask me about itchy legs. When they walked, their legs became so itchy they just had to stop. Sometimes walking and jogging were the only exercises that produced this condition.

Symptoms: Itching, swelling or hives on the legs, arms, torso or neck during or after exercise. May progress to an anaphylactic reaction - passing out or closing off of your airway.

Exercise Allergy #1: Cholinergic urticaria (itching)

It is the rise in body temperature that produces the itching, swelling, and small hives that some people experience. People who have this may also experience the same reaction in hot tubs, saunas, and see that they are more likely to get it on hot days. This rarely leads to anaphylaxis - the life-threatening drop in blood pressure that can be fatal in major allergic reactions.

Treatment:

  • Antihistamines
  • Avoid exercising on warm or humid days
  • Reduce the intensity of your work-out
  • Stop exercising at the first sign of flushing, itchy skin or hives.

Exercise Allergy #2: Exercise-induced anaphylaxis

This life-threatening allergic reaction is usually seen when the victim is allergic to certain foods or medications and works out after partaking of the offending item. Shellfish, wheat, hazelnuts, grapes, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, antibiotics, cold medications and herbal supplements can be the culprits.
Attack symptoms are fatigue, warmth, itching, redness of the skin, then large hives, collapse and unconsciousness. They may have swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, choking, nausea and vomiting.

Treatment

  • Carry and know how to use a self-injectable epinephrine kit.
  • Avoid the triggering food or medication on the day before and day of your exercise.
  • Wear a medic-alert bracelet describing your condition and what you are sensitive to.
  • Walk with someone who knows about your condition and is prepared to call for emergency assistance.

Allergy #3: Itchy Pants Syndrome

Symptoms: Certain pairs of pants make your legs feel itchy, stinging, irritated especially in the thighs. The pants are usually of fabric other than cotton. The cause is thought to be the fabric finishes or formaldehyde that remains in the cloth, but laboratory tests don't bear this out. Still, some people have itchy legs wearing anything other than 100% plain cotton denim.

Treatment

  • Wear pre-washed, cotton-only non-designer blue jeans.
  • Switch to wearing skirts.
  • Over-the-counter topical anti-itch medications.

Next page >> Anxiety, Fears, and Panic

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