It’s no secret that getting regular exercise is important for your overall health, which in turn is good for your skin as well. That said, for some individuals, certain types of exercise can actually have adverse effects on their skin, namely in the form of rashes, wheals, and hives. The release of histamines that occurs during exercise, combined with the increase in body temperature and sweat gland activity, can trigger an autoimmune response (i.e. allergic response) that results in rashes and other skin issues. While these exercise induced hives and rashes typically go away within 30-60 minutes after the fact, some may last longer and accompany other symptoms as well (i.e. headache, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and more) and become highly irritating to downright painful.
If nothing else, the constant flare-up of these types of rashes can force you to limit your exercise routine or stop exercising altogether, which is not at all ideal. So, if you wish to continue exercising like normal but no longer wish to deal with exercise-related rashes, here’s what you can do.
The clothing you wear during exercise can play a role in the emergence and severity of rashes and hives. Simply put, tighter clothing traps more sweat and heat and increases friction against your skin (which is why an inner thigh rash is so common in those who run while wearing tight-fitting pants). To mitigate this risk of heat rash, swap out your snug activewear for something a bit more breathable. This simple switch won’t guarantee that you’ll avoid future exercise-related rashes, but it can help you avoid more severe breakouts.
If you frequently experience rashes following a workout and/or they linger longer than they should (i.e. more than an hour after you’ve finished exercising), ask your dermatologist about topical rash treatment options. There are various over-the-counter and prescription-strength products (such as steroid creams) on the market, and your doctor can help you find the right one for your needs.
As mentioned earlier, histamines are one of the main triggers for common skin rashes, including those induced by exercise. It makes sense, then, that antihistamines like Benadryl and other allergy medications can help prevent and/or mitigate these rashes by dampening the effects of histamines. It’s often recommended that you take an oral antihistamine about 30-60 minutes before exercising to receive the best effect. However, note that many over-the-counter and prescription-strength antihistamines cause drowsiness, which is sub-optimal and possibly dangerous if you plan on working out shortly after taking them. If these products make you sleepy, ask your dermatologist about non-drowsy options.
Generally speaking, an exercise-induced skin rash is a minor concern that goes away on its own. Those who undergo severe skin rashes and other symptoms, however, may require a more aggressive approach to treatment -- namely Epinephrine (i.e. EpiPen). Your doctor may recommend this option if you’ve experienced life-threatening symptoms in the past following an exercise routine. Having an EpiPen on hand will allow you to inject your body at the first sign of these symptoms, so they don’t worsen.
If rashes, hives, and wheals are getting in the way of your workout routine, know that you can do something about it. The experts at Premier Dermatology Partners are here to help you better understand your skin and overall health so you can make the best choices for your body. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.