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Ending Itchy Legs After You Run

Ending Itchy Legs After You Run

I’m no doctor, but I’m an expert on itchy legs when I run or walk. The problem is – most people look at me like I’m weird when I tell them about it. If you’re reading this, chances are you know the routine… mind-numbing itching which almost completely eliminates any chance of a good cardio workout. And today – I think I’ve got my answer to this problem.

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Update: There is a 2012 follow-up to this 2010 article. See link at the bottom of this page.

Itchy Legs When You Walk

5-10 minutes after you start a steady walk or run, you’ll start feeling your thighs tingle, then itch, then increase in intensity until it feels like you’ve reached a level of Dante’s Inferno – the level where 10,000 mosquitoes go into a frenzy on your legs. I’ve scratched my legs until I’ve torn the skin. Usually it starts on the quads (front thigh) and works its way around to the buttocks and even into the torso area. It is truly debilitating, and the sole reason I never really embraced cardio as part of my workout. When I’ve told people I hate running because my legs itch, I usually get a confused or scornful look. But if you’ve had this itch, you know I’m not exaggerating. It can be maddening.

Over the years I’ve looked around for answers and never really found much that worked.  I tried changing to different materials for my shorts, only running in warm weather, only running in cool weather, not running in the wind, only walking, interval walk/running, rubbing lotion on prior to running – you name it. And the worst advice I read was that it was my capillaries shrinking due to poor circulation – and to just “push through it” and it’ll go away over time. How many torturous itch sessions did I have to endure due to that quack advice?

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So I decided to try researching it again, and after a lot of reading and testing, today was the first time I was able to engage in a nice, brisk 30-minute walk with minimal itching. What did I do? I took Zyrtec an hour before exercising. That’s it.

So if the treatment is an antihistamine, the cause would be histamines, probably released during the vibration and repetitive nature of walking and running. This would also explain why playing sports – which have a lot of stopping involved – don’t always induce this problem.

Some people attribute it to Exercise Urticaria, but to me the definitions of that don’t quite fit. Perhaps it is a version of it. But what us itchy-leg-runners get isn’t hives or raised. There is a warm feeling, though the skin is usually cool to the touch. The itching comes on several minutes into exercise and escalates to unbearable levels. I’ve found applying lotion after an attack makes it go away faster, but doesn’t prevent it.

I tried Benadryl and it didn’t work. Zyrtec did to some extent, and I have read that people have had good luck with Claritin as well.

All I know is that if a simple antihistamine is the cure, then it will open a whole world of cardio that I’ve never been able to experience before.

There is a 2012 follow-up to this article. Read that article here.

  • Rita

    Absolutely correct! Laziness has nothing to do with this. I am a nurse and in shape and have this itch issue! Benadryl only takes the intensity of the itch down a notch for me. Thanks for the Zyrtec advice. Most definitely will try it. As far as how long to take it before exercising is different for each individual fur to the fact that our kidneys filter meds differently throughout the body. Ill try it at first 30 mins before workout and see what happens… Thanks all!

  • Ross

    BY THE WAY–anyone who says that this is due to a lack of physical fitness doesn’t know what they’re talking about. They are likely confusing this condition with similar symptoms that people who are out of shape exhibit. This is a very real condition that is independent of physical fitness and which has no known cure. BUT, taking anti-histamines does help. In my case, Zyrtec has been the only one that worked for me at all.

  • Ross

    ZYRTEC is the answer. I have suffered from this for years. HOWEVER, I want to add that you should take it way more in advance than just 1 hour. Zyrtec takes several hours to take effect, and the best results are achieved when you take it the night before. I take 1 zyrtec every night and it pretty much relieves all of my exercise-induced urticaria.

  • Rob

    You are all wusses, you dont need a pill to stop it. It happens cause you become lazy and inactive. If you simply do exercise everyday it will not even be a problem. But you get lazy one day and you dont do your exercise. It is completely your laziness that gives the problem and all you got to do is tough it out for a few runs and youll be back on track. I have the same itch simply because I stop for one or two days then I suffer for the next run. After running for 20 minutes my whole body is red and the itching is extreme but the next day it is much better. If I just keep going everyday then it doesnt come back, just when I stop is when it returns. So dont be lazy and then become a wussy who needs pills to run.
    Thank you.

    • waffles

      The suggestion of a pill is only meant to be a temporary solution to help while the runner/walker works up to a higher fitness level.

  • Ali

    I have this same problem and after a short walking or runnig, I get crazy from the itch. But with your solution I think a new window will open for me because the itching is soooooooo awful. Thank you very much

  • Brittany

    THANK YOU!! I have told people about the same problem and they think I’m just using an excuse not to exercise outside. I have used lotion before exercising and I have worn tight yoga pants thinking it was the fabric rubbing on my legs. I am going to try Zyrtec and I pray that it helps! Thank you!!!

  • waffles

    Good luck!! Working up to longer and longer distances, and wearing comfortable shoes seems to be the best long-term fix.

  • waffles

    It seems to be a temporary fix. Long-term it seems that slowly increasing the distance you walk, along with wearing very comfortable shoes, may be the best solution.

  • Sheron

    Great! This explanation makes sense. Has anyone tried this remedy?

  • Lindy

    I, too, am so glad to read this. I thought I was the only one and also get strange looks and comments when I tell anyone. I literally want to rip my skin off it itches and hurts so bad. I, too, just decided today to take an anti-histamine, so can’t wait to see if this works. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. Thank you for giving me hope that it has worked for all of you!

  • Ami

    OMG!!!! If this works, you will be my savior!!!
    Just got home after a fairly short walk on a lovely day & had to claw at my legs until the looked like I’d been attacked by a gang of alley cats!!
    Can’t wait to test it!
    Thank you!!!

    • waffles

      If that doesn’t work, be sure to read the follow-up article, too! Good luck and let us know!

  • Sufferer

    I have this same problem. It’s good to know I’m not alone. So I tried it I took 2 zyrtec 1 hour before I began my cardo workout and it worked. I was so relieved that I was able to get back to running and working out. This was about a week ago. Everyday I take either 2 zyrtec or 2 benadryl before my workout and havent had the itchy leg problem since. THANK GOD!! 🙂

  • Daniel

    Sounds exactly what I have. It stopped me from running and now I’m out of shape. Hopefully this will work and I can get fit again in the new year. Thanks for the advice! Good to know I’m not crazy as well

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James White specializes in internet hoaxes, travel, product reviews, and social media.

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