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?