Hives, swelling and trouble breathing can all happen when they hit the gym.
When you think of life-threatening allergies, you may think of people who are allergic to bee stings or peanut butter, or maybe someone who really swells up dangerously if they consume shellfish. It’s unlikely that you’d consider someone who is exercising.
And really, if someone told you they actually were allergic to the gym, most of us would roll our eyes and laugh. Sure, just like I’m allergic to washing the dishes, and putting a new roof on the house!
Interestingly, the condition is actually a real one. And it can be life threatening.
Exercise-induced anaphylaxis or angioedema, (EIA for short), was first identified back in 1979, and often happens as a combination of events.
“Typically we see it in combination with another type of allergy, usually to food or hot weather,” said Dr. Dennis Cardone, a sports medicine specialist at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, in an interview with ABC News.
Most people who experience EIA aren’t allergic to those foods under normal conditions, but if they raise their heart rate and break a sweat shortly after eating them, it can spell trouble. Anaphylaxis sets in.
Here are 3 intriguing stories of people who actually have an allergic reaction to exercise.
1) Kasia Beaver UK
In 2013, ABC News.com reported the story of Kasia Beaver and her reaction. Beaver, who is from the UK, was in her early twenties when she suffered her first exercise-related attack.
She says that she had applied a new eye-shadow and thought that her eyes were swelling up in reaction to it. But when the makeup was removed, the swelling persisted and her face stayed that way for 3 days.
Some time later, Beaver attended the gym and had an even more severe reaction, resulting in a visit to the emergency room. There, she was treated for anaphylaxis but it wasn’t until years later that experts figured out what her trigger was.
“It’s terrifying, especially if I’m alone with the children,” she said to ABCNews.com.
Doctors now tell her that simply running to catch a bus or chasing after her children could actually kill her. Beaver now keeps on EpiPen on hand at all times.
2) Sarah Manning Norton Massachusetts
Sarah Manning Norton first had an allergic reaction to exercise while following a Jane Fonda workout video in her parents’ home as a teen. She collapsed on the carpet and developed hives.
Norton’s mother drove to a relative’s house to source some medication with an anti-histamine in it, but no one knew why Norton was having the reaction she was.
It wasn’t until she reached college that Norton’s mom saw a special on TV that described the problems of those who suffer from EIA.
‘She called me in a complete panic, demanding I never work out again!’ Norton says.
Thankfully her symptoms have weakened over the years, and she’s still active but carries around an EpiPen for safety.
Her worry? The kids. She hopes they haven’t inherited the condition, which can remain dormant for years.
3) Joe O’Leary U.S
O’Leary’s allergic reaction happens when he eats tomatoes, peanuts, peppers, soy or nuts and then breaks a sweat. He first discovered the problem back in 2015 when he ate a pizza with his mom and then hit the gym. After a short 30-minute workout on the elliptical machine, he was in quite a state.
“My eyes were watering, I was having trouble breathing,” he said. “In another five minutes I was struggling to breathe. I looked behind me into the mirror, and my eyes were swollen- every part of my face was swollen.”
Thankfully, O’Leary was rushed to the emergency room just in time, where he was blasted with steroids and antihistamines and promptly diagnosed with EIA.
What’s life like now? He still exercises, but religiously avoids his food triggers.
The symptoms of EAI, which affects about 50 in every 100,000 people, include itchy skin, hives, trouble breathing and a tight chest, nausea, abdominal pain and trouble swallowing.
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