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Why My Face Turns Red When Running

By Melissa McNamara

Facial redness from running can simply be caused by blood vessels dilating and becoming visible on the skin’s surface. However, the redness can also be due to an underlying medical condition called rosacea. Rosacea is a skin disease that rarely disappears without treatment, and exercise is a common trigger of its symptoms. Heat exhaustion can also cause your face to become red while running, especially if you’re running outdoors on a hot humid day.


During the early stages of rosacea, you will notice your face getting red during physical exertion. If rosacea is left untreated, the symptoms will become worse and the redness will be present even when you’re not running. Small blood vessels may be present on your nose and cheeks, as well as small red bumps in the central regions of your face. Your face may sting or burn and become overly sensitive to facial products. You may also feel like you have sand in your eyes. If you're experiencing heat exhaustion, nausea and weakness may also be present, which can result in fainting.


Running will trigger redness for some people with this skin disorder. You may notice the redness is worse if you’re running outdoors on a hot sunny day. Rosacea is more common in women, but men and teenagers can also experience this condition. If you have relatives with rosacea, you have an increased risk of developing this skin problem. If you’re fair-skinned and are between the ages of 30 and 50, your risk of rosacea increases.

Heat exhaustion can occur if your body temperature gets too high for long periods of time, causing the body’s mechanisms that regulate your temperature to become overwhelmed by the excess heat. High humidity doesn’t allow sweat to evaporate, so your body is unable to naturally cool down. If you’re not drinking enough fluids, then you’re not replacing the water and salts lost through sweating. A person with high blood pressure or someone taking diuretics may be more prone to heat exhaustion.


Your doctor may ask what triggers, other than running, spike your facial redness, as alcohol, spicy foods and certain medications can cause facial irritation. A topical cream is usually prescribed for rosacea and might initially worsen your skin by making it dry, irritated and red. Sunlight can worsen the side effects of using topical creams as well, so run indoors on a treadmill during the initial treatment stage. An oral antibiotic may be prescribed for its anti-inflammatory properties. You may need a combination of oral and topical medications. Laser treatment can also reduce the appearance of symptoms.


Don’t let rosacea stop you from running. Stick to your treatment program, and find ways to lessen your redness in the meantime. Running indoors in an air conditioned area can greatly reduce the amount of redness you experience from both rosacea and heat exhaustion. If you notice certain cosmetics or lotions irritate your skin, stop using these products right away. To avoid heat exhaustion from running on hot days, wear light-weight clothing and drink lots of water. Carry a water bottle with you when outdoors. Cooling vests are also available and can take heat away from the skin.

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