Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis (EIA)

So one of the more interesting experiences I’ve had since I started running was being diagnosed with Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis…that’s right, I’m allergic to exercise!!

So rewind to early December last year – I was out for my normal run with one of the running clubs I belong to. The weather had just shifted to being cold (my recollection is that it was probably 35 degrees + wind chill), so I was wearing all the cold weather gear (hat, mittens, etc.). After about two miles, my hands started feeling itchy. I thought maybe my mittens just needed to be washed after being in a basket all summer and didn’t think much of it. We finished up our run (about three miles total) and everyone else stayed behind to stretch, but I decided I might be having a little reaction to the mittens, so I was going to head home to take some Benadryl.

As I’m driving home, my face starts feeling tingly, but I assumed it was my face warming up after being outside in the cold. I checked the rear-view mirror at one point and was shocked to see a very puffy Katy looking back at me. At this point, my tongue was starting to feel funny (at from having a family full of nurses, I knew puffy tongue could mean restricted airway shortly), so I decided to call 9-1-1.

Everyone kept demanding to know what I ate, but I hadn’t eaten anything except a banana in over four hours. The paramedics drove me to the hospital (after giving me a dose of Epinephrine and some Benadryl, along with some oxygen to help with my breathing), and they kept me under surveillance for a couple hours to make sure I wouldn’t start reacting again. My fingers were so swollen I couldn’t take off my wedding ring for two days!

I went to an Allergist, and after lots of questions, he determined that I have something called Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis. He recommended I do some research on the Mayo clinic’s website, but that I always need to have an Epi Pen with me at all times, and gave me a regimen of Allegra and Singulair to help with preventing a future reaction. The best part was that he said in the 50 or so cases he’s seen in his entire career, there was only one where the person couldn’t run anymore due to the condition. I was so scared he was going to tell me no more running, and that would be devastating.

From what I’ve been able to discover online, it appears that this typically presents itself in people in their late 20s/early 30s, and that they can have a reaction once and potentially be symptom free for years before another episode. So far, the meds have been managing the symptoms pretty well, as I haven’t had another full-blown anaphylactic reaction. I did have a minor reaction last week where my hands got a little puffy and I started getting hives, but I popped two Benadryls and another Allegra, and the symptoms subsided within an hour or so.

In addition to the Epi Pen, I can’t ever go for solo runs again. I’ve needed to train my fellow running buddies on how to use the Epi Pen in case I go into shock and can’t administer the shot on my own. Additionally, I can’t be alone for 30 minutes after a run, in case symptoms develop after I’ve stopped moving. Overall I’ve been able to manage these requirements pretty easily (thanks to some incredibly flexible and patient running buddies who wait with me and/or drive me places), but it does get annoying from time to time.

Initially, everyone was incredibly apologetic to me about this condition, but I found it (and still do for the most part) so hilarious. People just joke about being allergic to exercise, no one actually is, right?! At least now I have something interesting to share about myself whenever I find myself in those uncomfortable “ice-breaker” exercises, right??

I’m a little nervous about how my body will manage this condition once the weather warms up, and I’m hoping that I continue to go incident-free. I’ve got Grandma’s Half in a few months, and the Disney Wine and Dine Half in November that I’m very much looking forward to. One way or another I’m running those races!!

Does anyone else know anyone who suffers from this condition? Does anyone have any pieces of advice for me?

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7 thoughts on “Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis (EIA)

  1. Hi there. Found your blog through ‘Writing While Running,’ who actually found me through ‘Mommy, Run Fast.’ I’ve been dealing with exercise-induced anaphlyaxis for almost a year now. For a while, I was having one or two episodes a month, then went 4 months without any, and then just had two reactions this past week. Some are more severe than others – often it’s just that I break out in hives, which is a nuisance, but not scary. Other times it’s downright terrifying – swollen lips, shortness of breath, lightheaded/dizzy feeling, and that general sense of anxiety and, well, terror that something is going horribly wrong and my body is completely out of control. It almost always starts with itchiness in my hands, though, so I’m now on super high alert for any sensation like that. It’s a crappy thing to have to live with, but I just take the precautions I can – I run with friends whenever possible, and always carry my phone and my epi-pen and Benadryl. Are you taking both Allegra and Singulair? I had been taking Allegra just before every run, but I’ve now started taking it every day, in the hopes that that will help keep these reactions at bay. Never looked into Singulair – what’s different about it? Sorry to write so much, but it’s so rare to find someone else who’s dealing with this, and I find it so helpful to talk about it. Hope that you continue to run incident-free!

    • I am SO HAPPY that you found me – I haven’t met anyone else who has this condition, and I completely relate to feeling better talking about it. And, I can relate to the itchy palms because they are always the first symptom for me, too, so I’m hyper-aware of them during exercise.

      Scary that you continue to react – I’ve only had one semi-reaction and a few minor reactions (I almost always break out into hives whenever I exercise). I had been taking the Allegra right before running, but my allergist suggested taking it in the mornings so it can build up in my system prior to the run (I usually run in the evenings). I was still reacting some, so he suggested that I take two Allegra every day, and that seems to have worked really well for me. I still keep the Benadryl close by and always take one if anything feels slightly “off” because I’m so scared to go into full anaphylactic shock again.

      The Singulair is AWESOME – it is usually prescribed for people with asthma, but my allergist thought it would be beneficial to me, as I still was getting some tightness in my chest and some difficulty breathing with exercise. You could look into an Albuterol inhaler, too, to help with any tightness the Singulair doesn’t help with. Since my husband has asthma, I use his inhaler every once in a while when the chest is feeling especially tight.

      We’ll have to keep in touch…it makes me happier than you know to have found someone who can relate to this absolutely ridiculous condition. Stay safe!!

      • I’m going to ask my allergist about the Singulair. Thanks for replying – it is nice to know you’re not alone with something crazy like this! You stay safe, too, and I hope the medication you’re taking continues to keep things at bay for you.

  2. YES – MY EXPERIENCES ON THE SUBJECT

    Last November I got nasty scalp hair itch while running three short uphill bursts
    In shower afterwards I had general urticaria and I got also dizzy and chewed an antihistamine and predinison tablet
    so the situation went over.

    Now again in chilly Novempber I made two very light 100 yard uphill burst and only 600
    running steps really slowly because of slippery roads and walked the rest peacefully.

    In one our my hair began to itch again and I got an anaphylactiv shock rapidly.
    I had to to lay down at roadside in the dark morning rain and waved heavily until a friendly driver stopped and called
    the ambulance.

    I felt very sick and nervous, tongue felt now swollen and blood pressure was 60/40.
    Skin was red and swollen.
    In a couple of hours my condition was OK with medicatíon. BP 110/70 close normal.

    First time I ate a lot of Panettone Italin yellow Xmas cake and now second time only
    two thin wheat crackers with French edam cheese on
    in the morning before running.

    Now I got to have some antihistamin and adrenalin injection at hand.
    Wheat and nut antibodies are measured.

    I wonder if ACE+calcium blocker Exforge hypertension medication can have the role in
    this matter.

    “A (semi) professional sportsman never sees a healthy day “

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