If you are fairly new to running, you might find that something new is happening to your body, and you weren’t expecting this at all. There are a lot of things you do expect when you take on new exercise. You expect to sweat. You expect some soreness. You may even expect to suddenly feel hungrier than normal. What you probably won’t expect is to itch. If you’ve asked yourself, “why does my skin itch when I run?” you’re not alone.
Why Does My Body Itch When I Run?
Believe it or not, having itchy skin is actually a pretty normal response to exercise. When you get your body moving, whether you are talking about your legs while running or your chest and arms while doing pushups, your heart starts pumping blood to that area.
That blood movement fills the many capillaries in that area. As all of these millions of capillaries expand it sends a signal to your brain. Did you know your brain often receives these signals as itching?
Why Do My Legs Itch When Running?
For new runners in particular, your body is not accustomed to the work you are putting your legs through. Again, due to an increase in blood in the capillaries in the legs, you are likely to have itchy legs.
Can you do anything to stop it? Yes!
Yup. The best way to stop itchy legs when running is to run more. As your body acclimates to the exercise, the itching should go away.
Why Do My Thighs Itch When I Run?
It is not surprising that for some runners the itch seems to be concentrated in the thighs. They are big muscle groups, after all. The itch can be because of the expanding capillaries, as explained above, or for other reasons. Let’s explore those.
If the weather is very cold the thighs can be particularly susceptible to feeling colder than other body parts. As a large muscle that takes the brunt of the wind, snow, rain, or other elements, it is not uncommon for your thighs to get red and feel very cold during and after the run.
This can cause a tingling or itchy sensation. If you experience this try layering an extra layer of clothing, such as knee-length compression shorts, underneath your tights, leggings, or athletic pants. Keeping an extra layer of protection on your hamstrings and quads can help keep them warm.
Can I Scratch The Itch Away?
If you have itchy legs when running, for example, you are probably wondering if stopping to scratch the itch will help. The answer is no.
While scratching an itch can sometimes cause temporary relief in this case it often does not help at all.
Other Causes of Runners Itch
Heat Rash is a possible reason to explain why your skin itches when you run. When your sweat gets trapped between your clothing and skin, it can cause an uncomfortable rash to develop. Common during hot temperatures you can avoid this by wearing loose-fitting clothing, avoiding running during the hottest parts of the day and using a lubricant such as Body Glide on skin surfaces that touch when working out.
Exercise-Induced Urticaria produces more than itching and is often accompanied by hives. Although many medical professionals are still in a quandary as to why this happens, in people who get exercise-induced urticaria, exercise produces an actual allergic reaction. Some people take antihistamines before exercise to prevent symptoms.
Dry Skin can make your legs or other body parts itch when running. A way to be proactive with this is to use lotion or another moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out. This is especially important for triathletes who spend time in chlorinated water and also in sun while doing the bike and run portions of training. Keeping your skin healthy is crucial!
Clothing choices can cause itching. Athletes should always be aware of the apparel that comes into contact with skin, especially while working out. What works for some athletes may not work for others. Wool, for example, is a good fabric for holding in heat during winter runs. However, some runners find it itchy and uncomfortable.
Allergies If you have allergies that could be the culprit. Think about the season you are exercising in. If you have seasonal allergies you can find yourself subjected to more than a runny nose or dry eyes. Exercising outside means your whole body is experiencing whatever is bothering your head. Again, a mild antihistamine may help.
Contact Dermatitis Another very real possibility is your body actually came into contact with something that is causing the body itch. This is especially true if you are running on a trail or the ditch of a road. If you force yourself into the weeds when an oncoming car makes you nervous or run on primitive trails, this could be your problem.
When To Worry
If your itching is accompanied by swelling of your face, throat, or mouth, you should seek immediate medical attention as this is a sign that your airway could be compromised. You should find help if you have difficulty breathing or if you feel tightness in your chest.
These are signs that your allergy or situation could potentially be life-threatening.
Troubleshooting Itches While Running
There are some things to try if you get itchy while running:
✓ Wear different fabrics
✓ Change immediately after running
✓ Shower (cool waterworks for some people, others swear by warm)
✓ Use lubricants to prevent rub
✓ Exercise regularly
✓ Switch clothing (loose instead of snug, for example)
✓ Wash workout apparel in unscented soap
✓ Do not exercise in extreme temperatures
For most people doing one of the above things will help with itching brought on by exercise. Whatever you do, don’t give up!
Remember: if it is just brought on by increased blood flow, getting into regular exercising is all you typically need to do in order to solve the problem.
Hopefully, the sooner you get into a routine the quicker you will say bye-bye to the itching!