Allergic to Exercise? What Causes Exercise Urticaria?

Do you break out in an itchy rash or develop itchy pink welts when you exercise? If so, you might have exercise urticaria. This is a common problem that can range from  mild to debilitating. Exercise urticaria is triggered when immune cells, called mast cells, release histamine, causing the pink welts and intense itch. It’s thought to be the result of exertion and changes in your skin’s temperature. Once you develop the itchy rash, it’s difficult to treat. So the best defense against exercise urticaria is to take an oral anti-histamine, such as loratadine, about 30 minutes prior to working out.

Can You Be Allergic To Your Swimming Pool?

Is is possible to be allergic to your pool?

Allergic to Swimming?

We’re in the dog days of August and summer continues to hold on. What better way is there to relax than in your nice, cool pool? Unless you’re allergic to it, of course.

I had a patient this summer who developed an itchy rash all over. He thought it might be due to his pool, but insisted that he kept it immaculately clean. Ironically, that might have been the trouble.

Some people are allergic to the shocking agent used for pools and hot tubs. Potassium peroxymonosulfate or PPMS is an oxidizing agent used to keep pools clean. A study showed that skin allergies to this chemical aren’t uncommon and that it tends to afflict men more than women.

As with my patient, treating the allergic reaction with topical steroids and changing the pool’s shocking agent can help. At least he wasn’t allergic to water.

Photo: Omar Edwardo

Itchy bottom? Moist Toilet Tissues Can Cause A Rash

Itchy butts are part of my everyday. It shouldn’t be part of yours.

Itching on your bottom is usually a minor annoyance, but it can be debilitating. A patient of mine was unable to work because his derrière itching was so intense. A common cause of itching bottom, called pruritus ani, is allergic contact dermatitis.

Places where your skin transitions from outside to inside, such as lips or anus, are susceptible to dermatitis because your skin’s barrier is limited in these locations. Without a thick layer of keratin, irritants on the outside easily get into your skin. Moist toilet tissues, such as baby wipes or towelettes, might seem to get you cleaner than old-fashioned toilet paper, but chemicals in the wipes cause a rash in some people.

Preservatives such as methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) or kathon CG are often used in packaged toilet wipes and are a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Many patients who have itching on their behinds fear that they are unclean, use more cleaning wipes, worsening their dermatitis. It becomes a vicious cycle. Avoiding all commercial wipes or towelettes usually resolves the rash and itching. If not, then see your dermatologist before you find yourself on extended medical leave.

Have you ever had an itch so bad that you thought you’d go mad?

Photo: RLHyde

Itchy This Morning? You Might Be Allergic To Your Couch.

Have you been lying on that couch all weekend? You might end up with a rash.

People in northern Europe have been suffering under the plague of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano. And if that weren’t enough, their sofas are giving them rashes. Recently dermatologists in Finland and Sweden have been seeing patients with a strange, itchy rash all over their bodies. Like an episode of House, no one could figure it out until doctors put together that everyone with the rash had recently bought a new sofa or couch. Extensive testing revealed that people were allergic to a preservative that was used to prevent mold growth when the furniture was shipped. The preservative, dimethyl fumarate (DMF) was released from the material when it became warm, as when you lie on it watching the Red Sox and the Celtics all weekend.

It does not appear that DMF dermatitis is widespread in the United States, but it has been reported on feet from athletic shoes that were shipped using the same preservative. We dermatologists are now aware and will be vigilant looking for this allergen.

So if you get up from the sofa and discover that you’re itchy, don’t blame the dog. It might not be his fault, this time.

Photo: Spartography (flickr)

Roach Rash


Cockroaches tend to get a bad rap. As repulsive an animal as they are to many people, the disease that they inflict on us is minimal compared to other insects like mosquitoes or fleas. In fact, although most dermatology books have whole chapters on insects that cause skin diseases, the infamous cockroach is rarely mentioned. Continue reading “Roach Rash”

Allergic to Your Cell Phone?


I have heard of people addicted to their Blackberry® (not me of course), but allergic to your Blackberry? Turns out, it is possible.

An 18-year-old patient from Rhode Island was found to be allergic to his cellphone. The case was reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. He presented with an itchy rash on his face as well as on his abdomen.

Rashes on the abdomen sometimes indicate a nickel allergy. The snaps in jeans and belt buckles are often made of nickel and contact the skin on the lower abdomen. Suspicious that the rash on the patient’s face could also be to nickel, the dermatologist tested the cellphone — it was strongly positive for free nickel.

The patient changed to a nickel free cellphone and his dermatitis cleared. When he went back to using his old cellphone the rash returned.

The dermatologists published a list of cellphones that contained nickel here. You can also order your own nickel test kit to use at home here.

Bercovitch L, Luo J. Cellphone contact dermatitis with nickel allergy. CMAJ. 2008 Jan 1;178(1):23-4. Copyright 1995-2008, Canadian Medical Association.

Photo: Derek Olson (flickr)