Allergic to Exercise

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

That's right, you read the title correctly, I am officially allergic to exercise. It started in high school. I had been playing basketball in the gym and my eyes swelled up. The doctor told me that I could take up to 6 or 7 benadryl whenever it happened. It would happen occasionally with different forms of exercise, but nothing terribly severe and the benadryl always knocked it out.

Earlier this month I was running on the treadmill at the gym and I could feel my eyes start to puff up and swell and my feet started to itch. I don't remember ever having the itchy feet part before. I drove myself home and took 6 benadryl and hopped in the shower hoping that if it was an environmental thing that triggered it, showering would help. It gradually got better. I worked out several times since. But I have been trying to remember to take 2 benadryl before working out as a precautionary measure. Yesterday I forgot.

I went for a run outside, after dinner, because it was a beautiful day. I was about a mile from home when I started to feel my eye swell. I had no choice--the fastest way home was running. By the time I got home my feet were super itchy. I came in--told Bill I was having an allergy attack, took 5 benadryl, ripped the contacts out of my eyes and my hands and feet were itching really badly by this time. I got in the shower and scrubbed my face and started to feel my gums swelling and my chest started to get tight. I kept feeling my face getting puffier and puffier. I am not sure if I even rinsed out the shampoo but I was starting to worry that it was going to travel to my neck and airways. I called Bill and asked him to call 911 because it's a good 10 minutes to the ER and I knew the paramedics would have an epi pen on them.

It felt like it was taking forever and Bill was shocked by how puffy I was and it was hard for me to swallow. My sick brain could only think about an article I read about a boy who had a peanut at a friends house and didn't have his epi pen on him and died before paramedics could get there. Of course that was going to happen to me. I could tell the 911 lady was giving Bill instructions. I asked him what she told him--I was hoping she gave him instructions on how to perform a tracheotomy with a pen :) Yep. That's the way my brain works.

By the time the paramedics arrived, this is what I looked like, except actually much worse. I wanted to tell the paramedics that I normally am much more attractive, but I don't think they would've found that information as important as I did.

They asked me what I had taken while they were putting in the iv. Then they injected even more benadryl and almost immediately the itching stopped and I could feel my gums returning to normal size. My eyes were still ridiculously swollen, but at least most of the chest tightness had gone away. The paramedics insisted I go to the hospital because benadryl could wear off fairly quickly. So I got to ride in the ambulance :) At the hospital they gave me some steroids and then I got to home. 

Unfortunately we don't know what triggers it. It's called exercise induced anaphylaxis and the most frequent form of exercise that causes it is running, but any exercise can. But it is usually triggered by something--a food or a drug that on it's own doesn't cause an allergic reaction but combined with exercise can. Because this attack was so much worse than any other attack I have ever had, I am going to only be able to exercise if I have an epi pen on me. So, yep, I am officially allergic to exercise...what's your excuse :) ?

Here's a link to an article, because people think I'm crazy when I say that I am allergic to exercise.


The Englings said...

WOW!! I have never heard of that before. I wonder what you are eating/taking that is triggering it? Probably would never find out. How scary that whole scene must have been with calling 911, etc. Thank goodness you are okay. I think I would put my running shoes in storage....:)

Jenna said...

I was talking to an athletic trainer at school and he told me he had just read an article about that, but had never actually witnessed it happening. Scary **** little sister!

Anna said...

Ummmm...based on the picture...the allergic reation caused a few other changes.;0) Glad you're on the mend. Hope you have an epi pen or two or three by now b/c I was thinking fall would be a good time for a 10k.:0) It's gonna be a little scarey to get back out there, huh?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I could have done a tracheotomy but I have seen enough episodes of ER to perform an intubation. ( you got to get behind the vocal cords) It was very scary to see you so puffy. I vary thankful that you are ok.--Bill

Anonymous said...

I am glad you are ok too Mama.
Love, MOM Rori said the scariest part was when they took you out on a tray.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced something similar. Every time I'm on the treadmill, walking or running, my skin would start itching and burning. I too have terrible allergies and my doctor said I need to take Benadryl before working out. My friends still laugh at me when I say I'm allergic to exercise. But it's a real thing. Good luck to you.