Allergic to Excercise? (Really!)

Sitting on my duff. That’s what I’ve been doing for weeks now. Granted, the last year and a half has allowed me to do only irregular swimming and yoga, but since the surgery (for obvious reasons) I’ve done next to nothing. Literally. As if that mere knowledge alone didn’t make me begin to feel strangely connected to the sloth, my body feels the need to let me know that it is not all in my head. Three weeks without any exercise at all is (apparently) enough to make you allergic to it!

I’m not exaggerating. About a week ago I went outside properly for the first time. Errands required us to make our way from our apartment down to the metro, stopping in at various places along the way. The metro is about a 5-7 minute walk. We made it there and started back. About half way home my legs began itching profusely, underneath the skin.

Now I’ve had this happen before. A handful of times it has come to my feet, specifically as I entered the NY subway. Strange, but true. (This leaves me appearing to dance a strange stomping jog on the platform while people pretend not to notice the crazy girl. Note that the stomping makes it worse.) But I am not allergic to the subway (technically) because sometimes when I am visiting my family in NC (and out of the workout habit) and we walk around the neighborhood, my legs begin to go crazy itching about halfway through the 2.1 mile circular trek. My god it’s torture. It is an intense itching and doesn’t stop until about 10-15 minutes after I stop moving. Scratching makes it much worse, but it’s near impossible to resist. It feels like when you get “pins and needles”, except the sensation of prickly tingling is also full of evil itch.

I sort of assumed everyone got this sometimes. But the strange looks I’ve gotten from friends we mentioned it to told me that is not true. Now I discover this has a name, exercise urticaria. Basically this means that I get hives when I exercise. Some call it exercise allergy which I find terribly funny. Can you believe it exists? It’s a “diagnosis” I would have paid for in years past (as a cop out for not going to the gym). I have also had it happen after hot showers or baths, but only for a few months and then it stopped happening as suddenly and mysteriously as it began. Standing in front of the fireplace invariably brings it on as well, making me choose between the luscious heat or no itching.

Word on the internet is that it means I have a hypersensitivity to a rise in body temperature. (This makes sense when applied to the NY subway as well, as anyone who has used it knows how extreme the temperatures can be on the platform.) It also says that when people are out of shape, the capillaries in fatty tissue collapse. (Mmm, sexy!) When the blood gets back into them from exercise, they open up and this creates the itching sensation. Once the capillaries are used to blood flow again, they will stay open – and voila – no more itching. While this only explains the occurrence as a result of exercise, the situation indeed quickly improves when I get in a little bit of shape. (My goodness, between that and my hot flashes I should look into moving into a refrigerator!) I’ve begun taking walks now, and it seems that each time I can go noticeably further without the itching starting.

So, three weeks on my rump and I’m “allergic” to even the slightest exercises. How’s that for “be careful what you wish for”. I’d rather be able to fool myself into thinking I’m fitter than I am. Hmph.



Filed under breast cancer, life, recovery, this time THIS year

2 responses to “Allergic to Excercise? (Really!)

  1. How lucky, yet ill-timed, for you! I, too, would have paid dearly for a diagnosis such as this. Although I sit here wondering if it might explain the back itching that accompanies each of my hot flashes, and also ever trip into the hot tub. Hmmmmm.

    On the plus side. It won’t take long to get your stamina back up. You look to be in great shape. I can’t believe you look so fit after all you’ve been through. The chemo & steroids left me with an extra 15 lbs to lose.

  2. Dave

    hey, I have the same condition and was good to know that there are people out there who have experienced it.

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