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Allergic to Sweat: Allergy or Just a Rash?

Man jogging in sportswear

by Charles Poladian

Sometimes the best reward after a hard workout or strenuous exercise is a good sweat. It's a sign you really put in a lot of effort. That is until you start itching and small bumps begin to appear. You may be wondering if you are allergic to sweat, but that's actually pretty rare. Here's what's actually happening with sweat irritation.

Allergic to Sweat or Something Else?

It's easy to see why you may think what you are experiencing is an allergic reaction to sweat. Itchiness and localized hives are common allergy symptoms, but what's actually happening is a heat rash. Sweat is involved, but it's a bit more complicated than a reaction to sweat.

A heat rash occurs when the sweat pores are blocked, according to the Mayo Clinic. One type of irritation occurs in areas where the skin is in contact with clothing. Your chest and shoulders are the most likely areas where you could experience a heat rash.

The second type of heat rash is better known as prickly heat. This type of irritation occurs when the blockage occurs deeper in the skin. Symptoms of prickly heat include red bumps and itching.

Beat the Heat

Because heat rash or prickly heat occur due to blocked skin pores, there are some quick ways to help manage or reduce irritation. Instead of wearing a T-shirt, don a tank top when you exercise. The less clothing in contact with your skin means less friction, so shed the sleeves and show off your guns. You should also try clothes with wicking properties to reduce the amount of sweat on your skin.

More importantly, try to stay cool. Heat rash is named that for a reason. An intense workout is great, but take a second to cool down, wipe some sweat away and drink some water before returning to your routine.

Wait, So What Is a Sweat Allergy?

The actual medical condition is relatively rare. The Cleveland Clinic estimates about 11 percent of young adults have it. Cholinergic urticaria are hives associated with sweat. The hives cover a small portion of the body, but usually go away in an hour. Sweat hypersensitivity is usually reported with cholinergic urticaria, according to a study published in the journal Allergology International. If this seems to be closer to what you're experiencing than a few bumps, discuss your concerns with your doctor. This will provide a clearer picture of what to do to reduce the reaction.

Stay cool, wick away the sweat and you'll be well on your way to reducing your chances of getting a heat rash after exercise. After all, there shouldn't be anything holding you back from accomplishing your goals.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Speed Stick® products. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.