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Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis Symptoms

By Lisa Mercer ; Updated June 13, 2017

Exercise is supposed to improve your health, so the idea that certain people might be allergic to working out probably seems preposterous. An article in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology," however, describes a condition called exercise anaphylaxis. While rare, exercise anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that occurs during physical exertion.

Contributing Factors

A September 2001 article published in "IDEA Fitness Source" details the factors contributing to exercise anaphylaxis. Outbreaks usually occur during vigorous aerobic activities such as running. Environmental conditions, such as hot and humid weather, increase the likelihood that susceptible individuals might experience an attack. The results of research studies performed at the Department of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics in Rome and published in the "International Archives of Allergy and Immunology" indicate that certain foods, such as tomatoes, peanuts and cereals, might cause an attack if consumed before vigorous exercise. A similar study performed at the Yokohama City University Medical Center in Japan found that wheat products are often the culprit. This study was published in 2001 in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology."

Early Symptoms

Symptoms, according to the "IDEA Health and Fitness Source" article, usually begin within five minutes of exertion. Intense itchiness is the earliest sign of an allergic episode. Within five minutes of exertion, 10 to 25 mm wheals, which are small red bumps, appear on the skin. Some people get a metallic taste in their mouths, say specialists on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network website. Untreated, symptoms will worsen, and last from 30 minutes to four hours after exercise cessation.

Later Symptoms

As the condition increases in severity, there is an obvious swelling of the mouth, face, hands, lips, throat or extremities. Breathing difficulties, including chest tightness, wheezing and coughing, are common. Circulation is impaired, resulting in a pale blue skin color. The patient might also experience low blood pressure and low resting pulse while feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are also associated with exercise-induced anaphylaxis.

Treatment and Prevention

A person experiencing exercise-induced anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention. Bring him to the emergency room, where doctors will administer an epinephrine solution. People susceptible to exercise-induced allergies might need to extend their aerobic exercise warm-up period, remaining at 60 percent of maximum heart rate for the first 10 minutes of the workout. Avoid exercise in rooms that have poor ventilation, or where chemical sprays were recently used.

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