How to Deal with Rashes and Hives from Exercise

Woman riding a Peloton bike How to Deal with Rashes and Hives from Exercise

So, you’re keeping in shape or starting on a new fitness regimen, and your progress is suffering because you’ve developed a rash. Let’s go over how rashes form from exercise and how to treat them so you can get back to your grind.

What to Know About Rashes from Exercise

Understanding Rashes and Hives

A rash is a reaction that occurs on the skin, usually after the skin makes contact with an allergen. Hives are welts or bumps that are often surrounded by redness on the skin. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but a rash is generally less raised than hives. Hives typically appear in groups; most often, you won’t see a single welt from hives. The causes of hives and rashes are innumerable, but let's focus on the reasons exercise can trigger them.

As you’re well aware, exercise can elevate your body temperature. This raising of your body temperature is enough to turn your skin red and result in hives in people with a condition called cholinergic urticaria. People with this condition will note that they may develop hives when they’re nervous, in hot weather, or exercising. As with most hives, unfortunately, the exact biological reason for CU is unknown, but many scientists believe it may be related to your immune system. One theory is that people with cholinergic urticaria are actually mildly allergic to their own sweat. When anxiety, physical exertion, or external heat cause us to sweat, the skin undergoes an allergic reaction. For many, this condition is mild, but for some, things are a bit more difficult to cope with. The hives formed by CU are generally warm to the touch, tingly, and itchy. They can develop anywhere on the body where sweat occurs but are usually visible on the face, chest, upper back, and arms. They generally appear within minutes of the triggering activity and will last anywhere between a half hour and an hour. Hives are usually little more than irritating, but if they’re accompanied by other symptoms like swelling around the face and lips, difficulty breathing, or low blood pressure, you need to get to a hospital immediately. These symptoms are indicative of a much more severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.

Rash Prevention and Treatment

Preventing rashes and hives associated with exercise can be tricky. Your skin is going to react to any elevations in your body temperature if you have CU. If you can’t avoid warm weather during the summer or give up exercising (and you most certainly shouldn’t), there are some things your dermatologist can offer to help your skin when you need it most. The first line of defense against exercise-induced hives and rashes is antihistamines. These drugs can be administered topically or orally, and they work by inhibiting the body’s natural allergy response. Taking or applying prescribed antibiotics before exercise can help keep you moving without the risk of developing hives. In many cases, taking a daily antihistamine is the best course of action if using it as needed isn’t cutting it. If your condition is more severe and antihistamines aren’t sufficient, there are other options. If you’re only experiencing these drastic changes from exercising in the heat, you may be prescribed corticosteroids temporarily. These drugs work to calm the body’s immune system, which is responsible for the formation of rashes and hives during an allergic reaction.


Regardless of your specific needs, your dermatologist can prescribe you the right treatment that can get you back to working out as soon as possible. If you develop hives and rashes while exercising, reach out to the pros at Northeast Dermatology Associates today.

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