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Exercise Column

Are you allergic to exercise?

Exercise-induced allergies, while uncommon, are a real phenomenon.

This past semester one of my students asked why she itched whenever she began to exercise. Years ago a good friend claimed she would itch if she pushed herself above a certain exercise intensity and stated that she would only workout so hard and not any more.

These two individuals are among a small group of people who exhibit allergic reactions to physical exercise. Their symptoms are similar to those a person would exhibit to a mild food allergy. Seldom are the symptoms severe enough to warrant medical attention. Although innocuous, they are none-the-less annoying. If, however you suffer from exercise from exercise-induced anaphylaxis, ceasing exercise is a must.

Exercise-induced anaphylaxis differs from a mild allergy. Symptoms begin with tingling sensations and itching, a systemic allergic reaction progresses to include hives, asthma symptoms, swelling of the mouth and throat area, difficulty breathing, vomiting, cramping, a drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. While these symptoms are serious and potentially threatening they are generally not deadly.

Most exercise-induced anaphylaxis is associated with recent food intake either prior to or during exercise. Apparently, the food immune system the immune system and exercise triggers the overall response. Often exercising prior to eating can solve the problem. Over-the-counter antihistamines to reduce be used to reduce the response. A last resort is the use of self-injectable epinephrine as is used with bee-sting or sever food allergic reactions.

Some will experience the  milder type of symptoms and wonder whether to continue on with their exercise program. The answer is yes. The immune systems in individuals with exercise  induced allergies are erroneously sensing that a harmless substance (in this case exercise) is dangerous. As long as the symptoms arenít severe there is no danger in continuing with your exercise. In fact, there is a intensity below which you can exercise and won't symptoms wonít occur.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 01.12.06