Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis

June 15, 2015

Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction affecting the entire body. If not treated quickly, anaphylaxis may lead to respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, and even death. Peanuts and bee stings are a common cause of anaphylaxis. In some people, anaphylaxis may even be triggered by exercise.

Causes of Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis:

Exercise-induced anaphylaxis may occur during any strenuous physical activity. The reaction is most likely to occur after eating foods or taking medications that are known allergic triggers. Foods and medications frequently associated with exercise-induced anaphylaxis include:

• Peanuts
• Wheat
• Seafood
• Aspirin
• Anti-inflammatories

Factors such as extreme temperatures, high humidity, and hormonal changes may trigger an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis:

Symptoms of exercise-induced anaphylaxis may come on suddenly and escalate quickly. Typical symptoms include:

• Hives
• Nausea
• Dizziness
• Cramps
• Diarrhea
• Swelling
• Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing
• Shock
• Loss of consciousness

What to Do:

You should immediately stop and rest if you feel early symptoms of an allergic reaction. You should call 911 immediately if you are with someone showing symptoms of anaphylactic shock including difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, or a weak and rapid pulse. Ask the person if they have emergency medication, such as an epinephrine auto-injector, and help them use it if available. You should stay with the person until emergency help arrives and be prepared to give CPR if the individual becomes unresponsive and stops breathing.

Preventing Exercise-induced Anaphylaxis:

You should identify and avoid known allergy triggers. Avoid exercising during peak allergy times or in high temperatures and humidity. Read food labels carefully to avoid potential food allergens. You should also ask your doctor about prescribing an epinephrine auto-injector. Make sure you follow safety precautions while exercising such as:

• Exercise with a buddy who is aware of your condition.
• Make sure you have your cell phone with you while exercising.
• Make sure you have your auto-injector with you at all times. You should check your auto-injector frequently to ensure it isn’t expired.
• Make sure those around you know how to use the auto-injector and how to perform CPR.

Long-term Prognosis:

Anaphylaxis is life-threatening, but it is typically avoidable and treatable with quick action. The first step is to identify and avoid known allergy triggers. The second is to have an emergency plan in place in the event you should experience an anaphylactic reaction. With proper precautions, you should still be able to enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Chacko and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. See the video here.