… you can be allergic to EXERCISE?!
Well, to put it simply…
Exercise-induced allergies are a thing. You can be allergic to exercise the same way that others can be allergic to peanuts, or shellfish…
Well, damn. There goes your summer body, right?
Even though, yes, there are some people who need to abstain from exercise altogether, there are ways for you to prevent your exercise-induced symptoms.
But first, we’ll need to go over the different types of exercise-induced allergic reactions and whether or not you think you qualify. Sound cool?
The Types of Exercise-Induced Allergic Reactions and How You Can Prevent Them
From what I’m reading, there are 4 known manifestations of exercise-induced allergic reactions. These conditions aren’t super common, but people do have them.
So keep your eyes peeled for the following information. If you think any of these might be you, don’t worry… we’re going to talk about prevention, too.
That way, maybe you won’t have to sacrifice your fitness to your sickness :).
*Note: I’m going to stress throughout the rest of this post that you should ALWAYS talk to your doctor about your symptoms before you self-diagnose. Those people have degrees, and it’s for a reason. USE THEM.
EIAna (Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis)
Most of us have heard the term ‘anaphylaxis’, right? Anaphylaxis it’s a “serious allergic response that often involves swelling, hives, lowered blood-pressure and in severe cases, shock”. (source)
So what is exercise-induced anaphylaxis? The same thing, but brought on by physical activity rather than food.
The first recorded case happened back in 1979, after which it was determined that the symptoms were brought on mainly by physical activity. However, there was reason to suspect that a combo of food and exercise could cause the reaction.
Exercise-induced anaphylaxis is usually brought on by strenuous physical activity, but calmer activities like walking can also cause it to flare up.
If you think this might be you, watch for these symptoms (after working out):
- Urticaria (watch for this term later in the post)
- Flushing of the skin
- Serious fatigue
TALK TO YOUR GP if you think you might be experiencing this. Self-diagnosis should only get you to the doctor’s office. Otherwise (in my humble opinion), you’re playing with fire.
But yeah, IF you think you might be suffering from exercise-induced anaphylaxis, your best bet is to do your best to prevent an episode. Observe your body and see if you can pinpoint what kinds of exercise cause a reaction. Also, see if there’s a particular food that you’re eating before you exercise that might be disagreeing with you.
If that don’t work, there’s always good ol’-fashioned epinephrine.
That’s right… an EpiPen. You may also need to wear a bracelet that tells people how to give it to you if you go into shock.
A little piece of advice that’s totally unsolicited: take a workout buddy with you. Better safe than sorry.
EIU (Exercise-Induced Urticaria)
Urticaria that awful rash people get when they’re allergic to something, traditionally food. It manifests as itchy red welts that tend to be darker around the edges than they are in the middle. Exercise-induced urticaria occurs, of course, as a result of vigorous exercise.
According to one study, high histamine levels during/after exercise might have something to do with it.
For those who don’t know, histamine is a chemical that your body produces when you have an injury… or when you’re allergic to something. That’s why you need anti-histamine drugs in the Spring and Fall (more on that kind of stuff later).
We covered a lot of this in the above section on anaphylaxis, so I’d say the best way to prevent it is to keep an eye on the foods you are eating. You may not be allergic to it on its own, but combining it with working out might be causing the breakouts.
So at the very least, keep an eye on the food you eat right before you exercise and stop eating that food if you think it might be contributing. If that doesn’t help, consult your GP for further care.
EIB (Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction, or Asthma)
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) used to be called exercise-induced asthma (EIA). But it gave people the impression that you could get asthma from exercising… which isn’t true. So for the sake of this post, I’ll refer to it as EIB.
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction is what happens when cool, dry air causes your airway to become narrower. Breathing through your nose kind of eliminates this issue, but because you tend to breathe through your mouth when you exercise, you expose yourself to that unfiltered dry-ass air.
So if you’re coughing uncontrollably after working out, now ya know why. But if you already have asthma, you’ll most likely experience this regardless.
The best way to prevent EIB is to cover your mouth and nose when you work out, or to take your asthma medicine beforehand (if you have preexisting asthma).
Always monitor your respiratory condition right before, during, and after you exercise. If you’ve recently had a cold or asthma attack, you’re more likely to experience EIB. Maybe sit this one out ;).
EIR (Exercise-Induced Rhinitis)
Ugh… rhinitis. Something I can personally relate to.
I haven’t actually been diagnosed with it… my symptoms aren’t nearly bad enough. But I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people experience it in the Spring and Fall. Hello, Hay Fever… blegh.
Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes in your nose. It’s what’s responsible for your runny nose and watering eyes when you have a cold or allergic reaction.
I can feel it now just thinking about it… that awful itch-burn feeling right up in the bridge of your nose? THAT, my friends, is how God punishes sinners… it’s literally Hell.
Unfortunately, it would appear that exercise-induced rhinitis happens to most athletic people. In other words, no one is safe. Working out increases the blood flow to your nose, causing your mucous membranes to make a watery discharge. Yum.
How can you prevent it? Well, the best methods would be to humidify the area or to cover your nose with something. This’ll keep irritants and dry air from making their way into your nasal passages during your workout.
You can also monitor the types of workouts you’re doing. Certain workouts are more likely to do this to you than others. For instance, I love- and I mean LOVE- doing Ali Kamenova’s Interval Yoga workouts… but I have noticed myself sniffling in the middle of the class. I don’t have as much of an issue doing Hatha or Vinyasa yoga, so if I’m not up for the sniffles, I can always lay off the Interval Yoga.
You can STILL find ways to be active beyond exercise-induced allergic reactions.
Between talking to your doctor and making your own observations, you shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out what works best for you. Unless your reactions are really bad, you’ll probably be able to work out in the future :).
Think this might be you? OR do you think this could be someone you know? Share this post! Exercise-induced allergies aren’t very common, but people ARE affected and may not know it.
Let’s bring awareness to it and hope that just one more person can learn something new :).
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Sources I used: