Do you get itchy legs when you walk or exercise? This is a symptom that can drive some people crazy and disrupt their exercise sessions. There are a few different syndromes and issues associated with this annoying problem.
Symptoms of Itchy Legs With Exercise
Some walkers complain that when they walk, their legs become so itchy, they just have to stop. Sometimes walking and jogging were the only exercises that produced this condition; they were fine with gym exercise and many sports.
Symptoms of itchy legs include itching, swelling, or hives on the legs, arms, torso, or neck during or after exercise. Some people even progress to having an anaphylactic reaction, which can include passing out unconscious or the closing off of the airway. When that happens, it is a life-threatening medical emergency.
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 or saunas. They may note that they are more likely to get the itching and hives on hot days. This rarely leads to anaphylaxis, which is the life-threatening drop in blood pressure that can be fatal in major allergic reactions. But it is wise to discuss it with your doctor to see what she recommends and to see whether any treatment by over-the-counter or prescription medication might help.
Treatment for cholinergic urticaria may include:
- Using antihistamines
- Avoiding exercise on warm or humid days
- Reducing the intensity of your workout
- Stopping exercise 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.
The symptoms of the attack are fatigue, warmth, itching, redness of the skin, then large hives, collapse, and unconsciousness. The victim may have swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, choking, nausea, and vomiting. Often, this attack is a medical emergency. But even if you have a milder episode, you should see your doctor as soon as possible for further examination and recommendations.
Treatment for exercise-induced anaphylaxis may include:
- Working with your doctor to develop a comprehensive anaphylaxis action plan
- Carrying and knowing how to use a self-injectable epinephrine pen
- Avoiding the triggering food or medication on the day before and day of your exercise
- Wearing a medic-alert bracelet describing your condition and what you are sensitive to
- Walking with someone who knows about your condition and is prepared to call for emergency assistance
Allergy #3: Itchy Pants Syndrome
Do certain pairs of pants make your legs feel itchy, stinging, and irritated, especially in the thighs? This is more frequently seen when the pants are made of fabrics 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 percent plain cotton denim. See your doctor to rule out other causes of itching.
Solutions for itchy pants syndrome may include:
- Wearing pre-washed, cotton only, non-designer blue jeans
- Switching to wearing skirts
- Using over-the-counter topical anti-itch medications
Shoe and Sock Allergies
If your legs are fine but you have an itching sensation on your ankles and feet, you may be allergic to your shoes and socks.
A sock allergy is probably similar to itchy pants, and you may be reacting to the sock fabric. But shoe allergies can come from many different glues, dyes, and leather tanning agents.