During... or even right after exercise, itching on your face, scalp or neck happens to a lot of people and when it does, its really annoying. It’s cause isn’t so much related to the particular exercise you do… but it's more related to how intensely you do it. Simply, the more intense the workout, the more you itch.
When you exercise, your muscles use energy for the muscle contractions that move your body. Very simply, the MORE you do, and the faster and harder you do them, the more energy you use. That’s what burns calories which then impacts on weight loss... Hooray!!! But unfortunately, muscles are somewhat inefficient in their use of those calories.
Well, that inefficiency creates heat in those hard working muscles… and that heat then spreads from the muscles and starts to raise your body temperature. In your body’s eternal effort to maintain homeostasis, meaning keeping things “normal”... and maintain a constant 98.6 internal temperature,.. it brings blood from the inside of your body which is starting to rise above 99 degrees, it brings that 99deg blood to your relatively cooler skin which is normally, somewhere between 80,& 90 degrees. By sending more, warmer core blood to your relatively cooler skin, the extra core heat is dissipated easier to the outside air and that helps maintain normal, internal temperature… by preventing it from rising. So far so good… this all makes sense and as someone who loves to exercise… I’m in.…
But when we bring that heated blood to our skin, that heat causes a small amount of inflammation, or just plain irritation, in the skin. To deal with the “annoyance” of too much heat, your body tells special skin cells to release their histamine as part of the body’s way of fighting and correcting this “unnatural”... increasing skin temperature. Finally, It’s the release of this histamine in your skin that causes the itching.
OK… that was easy… just kidding…. but why's the itching worse on your face, scalp and neck.., compared to the rest of your body. Actually the itching can occur anywhere… and does… but it happens much more on you head and neck for 3 reasons: first… the shape of your head and neck have a very high surface area compared to their volume, which makes heat loss much more efficient. Remember, mom always said to wear a hat in cold weather. She knew this stuff!
Second… there’s a very rich network of blood vessels in your face, scalp and neck... which bring a lot of blood there, and that maximizes heat loss..and lastly… your scalp sweats a lot because of your hair and the sweat plays a minor role in the itching.
So whats the best fix to help prevent exercise induced itching? I bet you want me to say “don’t exercise!"... Sorry that’s not an option!
Instead try taking a non-sedating antihistamine like over the counter Allegra, 60 mg, one hour before your workout.
Exercise is great for your head, your heart and your body and now; its itch free!