Q:

Why Does My Face Turn Bright Red When I Work Out?

Just about every time I work out, my face turns beet red. Sometimes it lasts long after I’ve stopped exercising, which makes running during my lunch break difficult. Why does this happen? And is there anything I can do about it?

runner heat: stroke

Don't fret if a good workout gets you red in the face.     Photo: Rupena/Shutterstock

A:Most likely, your flushed face is a sign that you’re hot and fit. The body gets rid of heat by sweating, and also by dilating blood vessels (including the ones in your face) to increase blood flow to the skin, where it can transfer the heat to your surroundings. Studies have shown that men who do regular endurance training experience up to 40 percent more blood flow to their skin when they exercise than untrained men, possibly because they’ve trained their bodies to begin dilating their blood vessels at a lower internal temperature than non-athletes. It’s an adaptation that allows athletes to get rid of heat more efficiently so they can train harder without overheating, and one that may occur after only 10 consecutive days of training for an hour a day.

But scarlet skin can have other causes. A red face is one of many symptoms signaling the onset of heat stroke, including nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Exercise can also exacerbate rosacea, a skin condition that typically occurs in people with fair skin and is characterized by flushing, redness, and visible facial blood vessels. And some people are prone to getting exercise-induced hives, which can be associated with itchiness and stomach cramps, particularly after eating certain foods.

So what can you do about it? If your face is flushing simply because you’re working hard, you could cut back on the intensity to keep your core temperature down. And if it’s because of rosacea or a general tendency to flush easily even when you’re not exercising, researchers are currently looking at Botox as a possible source of temporary relief, though results thus far haven’t been promising.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Your red face could well be a sign of superior fitness. But if it bothers you or accompanies other symptoms, like itching or an upset stomach, see your doctor to rule out other possible triggers, including rosacea and exercise-induced hives.

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