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Is It Actually Possible to Have an Exercise Allergy?

{Image Credit: iStock}

We all know the benefits of exercise for a healthy lifestyle, but if you feel nauseous after working out or are convinced another minute on the treadmill will kill you, it might not be in your head anymore.

It turns out, being “allergic to exercise” isn’t just another plea to skip the gym and lounge on the couch with Netflix all day. Recent studies suggest this is a reality for a rare few who showcase an array of symptoms during or after a workout. Popular Science reports being allergic to exercise comes with very serious symptoms.

Known as an “exercise-induced anaphylaxis,” those allergic will experience flushing of the skin, hives, swelling, nausea and other symptoms. However, prior to worrying about your pending jog or that stair climbing exercise, research states the chances of having an allergic reaction to physical activity are rare.

First termed in 1979, Popular Science states the allergy condition is uncommon and affects an estimated 50 in every 100,000 people. While the “why” of it all is still unclear, Maria Castells, an allergist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told the publication that even with awareness of the condition increasing over the years, there are some theories as to how it happens.

“There’s no mouse model and no human model of the ideas,” Castells said. “There are a number of groups trying to develop a model, but they need more time.”

{Image Credit: Shutterstock}

One of the most common causes of a reaction is food plus exercise, known simply as “food-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis.” This affects between 30 to 50 percent of people with the allergy.

According to an Anaphylaxis Campaign fact-sheet, symptoms take place when a particular “trigger” food is eaten before exercise, adding that wheat and shellfish are common culprits. For others, aspirin plus exercise poses such a problem.

Moreover, it was discovered that those with the allergy who ate trigger foods, mixed with aspirin, developed more severe symptoms like swollen tongue, difficulty swallowing or feeling faint and weak.

Castells goes on to tell Popular Science that the amount of exercise needed to trigger a reaction depends on the person. Those who are more in shape and physically fit are less prone to allergic reactions from exercise than people who aren’t.

Over the years, there have been several cases circulating in the news of individuals with severe reactions to allergies. In 2013, a mother from England suffered a potentially fatal allergic reaction after a visit to the gym when her eyes swelled shut, she broke out in hives and her throat closed up.

For those who do experience the allergic reactions, the study suggests it might be wise take up swimming, which helps keep you active. Castells explains that other exercises, like running, dancing, or biking, have been reported to cause an allergic reaction, but not swimming.

The good news is exercise-induced anaphylaxis is manageable, and one of the best ways to avoid reaction is to steer clear of physical activity on the day trigger food or drugs are consumed.

Furthermore, symptoms can also be treated with EpiPens containing adrenaline. While these are prescribed for people believed to be at risk, you should have them readily available at all times and use as soon as symptoms appear.

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One Comment on “Is It Actually Possible to Have an Exercise Allergy?”

  1. chasity100 October 7, 2017 at 7:05 pm #

    I am one of those rare people who breaks out in hives during a run indoors or outdoors. Before I run now I take an allegra and so far that has helped.

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