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Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis - Food Allergy

Updated on October 7, 2015
brakel2 profile image

A medical background and interest in research created Audrey Selig's interest in writing about medical issues.

Allergic to Exercise?

Did you ever hear of a food allergy, then exercise, followed by an anaphylactic attack? It is called Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis. This condition is very rare and can be fatal. Anaphylaxis itself is defined as an acute allergic reaction to an antigen like a bee sting to which the body has become hypersensitive. An antigen can be a food.

To prevent the attack from becoming more serious, you must carry an Epi Pen with you, epi meaning epinephrine. This medicine, when injected at the beginning of symptoms can forestall an attack, but emergency room treatment usually follows the injection. If you have had attacks such as these, you must always carry the pen with you, instructing others to help you if you need the injection and cannot administer it. You will learn the story of a victim, symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment of the condition.

Girl In Water With Possible Attack
Girl In Water With Possible Attack

Nuts - Food Allergy

Squirrels and nuts go together.
Squirrels and nuts go together.

Victim's Story of Exercise Induced Anaphylaxia

Miss S., avid exerciser, suffered her first anaphylactic attack when she was a twenty year old college student. Her love of working out was the beginning of this patient’s disease. About an hour after eating peanut butter and doing a little exercising, she alerted her roommate when she had difficulty breathing and facial swelling. She raced Miss S to the nearest emergency room where the ER personnel immediately attended her, recognizing the reason for the crisis. After stabilizing her, the hospital admitted her for overnight observation, ensuring Miss S’s further care with a referral allergy specialist .

Care in the hospital consists of intravenous antihistamines and sometimes cortisone to decrease inflammation in the air passages. Beta antagonists can also ease trouble breathing, according to "Killer Workouts", August 21, 2013.

Running and Allergies

Races take lots of energy.
Races take lots of energy.

Physician's Allergy Evaluation

Miss S visited Dr.Martha Tarpay who performed a thorough workup and observed her exercise. She diagnosed her illness as Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis with later confirmation that it was a food allergy prior to exercising. She tested her for foods and determined the culprits could be: peanuts, tuna, melon, bread, pizza, cheese and kiwi fruit. Her diagnosis was rare, and the physician determined this time it was from the nuts in peanut butter. She gave her a prescription for an Epi Pen to inject if another incident occurred and a follow up appointment, exhibiting concern for this patient with an unusual disease.

A Second Attack

The next attack happened six years later when she did not have her Epi Pen. After running two miles with a different roommate, Miss S. cried out in her bedroom with similar symptoms. The roommate and another person rushed her to the ER. During the ride, she passed out, and they carried her into the ER where personnel told them to take a seat. The roommate screamed at the nurse about the attack and passing out. A physician rushed to a trauma room to attend her. Once again, the doctor stabilized her and kept her overnight. She visited Dr. Tarpay again, and this time the food was pizza. The physician alarmed her by telling her she could no longer exercise until five hours passed after eating and to always carry the pen. After this incident, she had two mild allergy flare-ups and to date, no further incidents occurred

Attack Stopped for Bride

Do the Symptoms Ever Suddenly Stop?

Stories exist that show that symptoms can stop. Epinephrine is actually Adrenaline. A bride once had an attack come on, just as she was about to walk down the aisle. She composed herself as adrenaline kicked in, halting the progression, and she walked down the aisle.

Fortunately, statistics show the death rate from the disease in the United States to be quite low, probably due to patient knowledge and good care. Between 63 and 99 people die from this disease in a year. This is in spite of an increase in the disease over the past ten years, according to the American Association Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, December 13, 2013..

Symptoms and Prevention


The main symptoms are: breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, congestion, pallor, low pulse, loss of consciousness. The main causes are allergies to latex, medicines, stings, and foods, such as nuts, shellfish, milk and eggs.

Preventive Measures

Stop exercising if you begin to have allergy symptoms. This includes other activities like raking leaves or walking in extreme temperatures.

Do not exercise until five hours after eating.

Carry your Epi Pen at all times

Instruct your family/friends how to assist with Epi Pen

Call 911 instead of going to ER by car. The ambulance tech can help you immediately.

Be aware of foods that cause symptoms.

Remain under physician’s care and have regular checkups.

Ensure your Epi Pen is refilled.


Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis is a dangerous disease and can cause fatalities. As you can see from this victim’s second attack, time is the element that makes the difference. Once you begin to lose consciousness, the danger increases. Calling 911 erases some of the time lost in getting to the Emergency room. Of primary importance in this allergy disorder is ensuring you have an Epi Pen and that you keep getting it refilled as needed. You should always exercise with a partner and avoid outside exercise, if possible, during allergy season.

A food allergy, followed by exercise, brings on this disease. If you wait several hours to exercise after eating, you will prevent further problems. Being aware of foods that cause problems and following doctor’s orders may save your life. Fatalities are rare, but you never want to take any chances. Miss S. walked at a festival in the heat, and symptoms began and stopped. That same occurrence happened to others. You can look at the photo in this article of the squirrel with nut and know that nuts are a major allergy trigger. You can see the photos of people exercising, and know that food and exercise mean danger for some people. Knowing the triggers can prevent further attacks. If you are educated about your disease, you stand a better chance of winning the battle in the long term. Do not be afraid. Take action.

This article is not meant to replace information from a physician. Audrey Selig has a background in Medical Social Work. References appear at end of hub. The girl called Miss S. agreed to an interview for this article.

Do you know anyone or do you have severe allergies?

See results

American Association Allergy Asthma Immunology December 13, 2013

Food Allergies


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    • profile image

      Enon Hopkins 

      2 years ago

      Thank you for this article. I am writing this as I sit on my couch recovering from my trip to the ER yesterday. I experienced this horrible and scary situation yesterday evening. I know that I have a food allergy to ALL mammalian meats (Pork, beef, deer, bison, etc.) I eat chicken at almost every meal and occasionally treat myself to fish or shellfish. I acquired this affliction secondary to a tick bite 4 years ago where I was injected with an alpha enzyme from the tick. Yesterday, I at a boiled egg and grits for breakfast (9:00am). I ate a handful of cherries for a snack (10:30am). I had chicken wings and a salad with brownie for dessert at lunch (12:15pm). For dinner I ate chicken alfredo pasta and a salad (6:45pm). At 8:40pm, I got on my bike trainer and warmed up for ten minutes. I then pushed my pace to race pace and sprinted for ten minutes. At 9:00pm, I went outside and ran a quick paced (for me) mile. The temperature outside was 81 degrees and seemed very comfortable. My run was uneventful and felt pleasant despite the challenge of pushing myself. I got into my vehicle and cooled off while I was checking the stats of my run. I suddenly got an intense itch on the back of my head at the neck / hairline. Within one minute I began wheezing. I hurried home and told my wife of my situation. I took two benadryl and waited a few minutes then got into a cool shower and after about 30 seconds i had to jump out because my whole body felt like fire. My face became very swollen and I had welts from head to toe. I administered the EpiPen in my right quad at approximately 10:00pm. We rushed to the ER and got triaged immediately (10:25pm). We were told to sit in the waiting room as they found a room for me. I went to the bathroom feeling nauseous and sat on the toilet. I am not certain how long I was in there but as I walked to the door I blacked and slammed my head into the tile floor. I don't remember the rest but my wife told me they took me to a trauma room and pushed IV steroids and fluids. They monitored me for 6 hours and then released me home. I sit here this morning researching what happened to me and I have so many unanswered questions but I pray no one experiences the pain and fear that I went through last night. All I can say is that I didn't die and I am grateful that it wasn't something as devastating as cancer or any other chronic and life threatening diseases that millions of others face daily. Pray for them.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Thanks Pat for reading my hub and commenting. This allergic reaction is not well known but can be a frightening experience. Our bodies can have strange allergic responses. It is important for people to be educated, as you mentioned. Thank you for the Angels. I am glad you send them. Blessings, Audrey

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      I had not heard of this. I had adrenaline shots a couple of times for allergic reactions to drugs . I had no idea that food and exercise could cause such a reaction.

      Very important for everyone to know.

      Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Olog - It is great to have you stop by this hub and comment so positively. I hope this hub does save someone's life, as I love to help people through my writing. So many diseases exist that we may not know about. You can read about so many illnesses and remedies by knowledgeable people or those who have done excessive research for HP site, Writers amaze themselves sometimes. Blessings, Audrey

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Jodah - It is actually a relative who has this illness, and it is very scary. I had never heard of it before either. Someone who made a comment here gave an explanation about how it happens. I need to incorporate it in my hub. You learn new things all the time. It is so great to have you comment on my hub, as I think highly of you. Blessings to you and Kathy, Audrey

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow Audrey, this is an eye opener to me. I have never heard of exercise induced anaphylaxis before. Fortunately I am not allergic to any food as far as I know. I know a lot of people who are allergic to bee and wasp stings etc, and my wife seems to be allergic to raspberry flavouring used in some alcohols. I never knew exercise could be a catalyst for sparking a reaction. thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • ologsinquito profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      That poor woman had a very close call the second time. This is an excellent article, and your information might save a life.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Colorfulone - This particular disease is rare and people seldom die from it. It is serious,however, and if anyone has any similar symptoms after eating and exercising, that person should check with his physician. Allergies, in themselves, can be serious. It disturbs me to know that some people feel it is in a person's mind. You might read responses about this situation above.. Thank you for reading this hub, and it is my pleasure to meet you. We crossed paths in a forum Blessings, Audrey

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 

      4 years ago from Minnesota

      This is something that I was not aware of with exercise and allergies to foods. People need to know about this information. I thought I know some people who have sever food allergies, but those are mild in comparison.

      Interesting and useful!

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Blissful - Wow, you know a lot about allergies. The girl in my hub is the only person I heard about with the disorder. I often wonder if there are many other folks who don't know they have the problem. This girl exercises constantly and has for years. You must have some articles on health, so I must take a look. It is nice meeting you, as I don't think our paths have crossed. Thanks for your input. Blessings, Audrey

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      4 years ago

      Food allergy -- and to a certain extent food sensitivity -- can become more pronounced when eating is done close before or after exercise. This only occurs when eating food that people have a sensitivity to. (But then again, many people are not aware of the foods they are sensitive to since sometimes there are no obvious symptoms after eating the food otherwise).

      Exercise can become a physical stressor that can induce "leaky gut" (at least temporarily). "Leaky gut" (or more technically excessive intestinal permeability) is one mechanism of trigger for the sensitivity.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Geoney - Thanks for stopping by to read this hub on Anaphylaxis, a rare but dangerous disease. The exercise induced allergy and attack are very real. I know what you mean about people making light of allergies, because they are very real. I know people get scared and just want allergies to disappear from their lives,as you indicated. I live in a state where allergies are very common. I hope your allergies have decreased over the years. I will stop by your hubs. Blessings, Audrey

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Marlene - Thank you for reading and passing on this article to the person who has difficulty following exercise. It is important to be aware of this disease. I have learned so many new things from this site, and I think it is important to help people in any way we can. I hope our traffic improves and that you have a great day. I will stop by your hubs. Blessings, Audrey

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Wow, it is so important to carry an Epipen and train others how to use it if you have food allergies. I was not aware of this exercise issue even though I do have a food allergy.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Patty - I know what you mean about not recognizing allergies. One of my past physicians believed allergies were in your mind and refused to refer a patient to an allergy specialist. In this day and age, so many people have strange ideas. I am sorry about your incident about the Splenda. How cruel can a person be? I know people with serious allergies that had to give up sports and be on breathing machines at times. Oklahoma is known for high allergies. Thanks for reading my hub and for your kind remarks and sharing. It was nice that you stopped by my hubs. Blessings, Audrey

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Writer Fox - Isn't this a scary disease? Can you imagine working out and having an attack? Someone said he would never work out again , if he had this disorder. I guess I wouldn't blame him. I am so glad you stopped by to read my hub, and thank you so much for sharing it. I hope you are doing well and have good traffic in the midst of the chaos. Blessings, Audrey

    • gconeyhiden profile image


      4 years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.C. U.S.A

      i suffered from childhood asthma and i can assure you it's not just a ploy for getting attention. not that i rule out the idea in all cases of course as nature is full of deception, but the idea that all asthma is a ploy is the height of stupidity because people can and do die from extreme attacks. as a child i would often get an attack and just curl up in a corner, so my attack might go unnoticed.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      4 years ago from USA

      Very enlightening. I know someone who becomes lethargic, tired, and has difficulty breathing after exercising. It's not your normal "out of breath" kind of tiredness. Sometimes, this person ends up in the emergency room. But, the doctors never categorized it as exercise induced anaphylaxis. I think I'll mention this to her. It could be a real life saver.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I've seen this dangerous reaction a few times and am VERY angered by other persons who believe that allergies do not exist, but are a bid for attention and special treatment. We need more awareness broadcast to the public.

      Some adults still believe that children will "grow out of" all allergies and that they are not serious. In addition, allergies are not "big news" until we hear that someone dies from anaphylaxis.

      One teen girl I knew carried an inhaler to all her exercise-related events and used it many times. I have a couple of allergies that are quite bad and recall that one day, an associate did not believe I was allergic to Splenda and attempted to trick me into ingesting some in order to prove the allergy was fake. I caught the person and never ate or drank anything else she offered.

      Allergies can be deadly and very quick to kill. Thanks for this excellent article! rated and shared.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      I've never heard of this reaction before. From your research, it looks like the stress caused by food allergies is augmented by the stress on the body caused by exercising. I wonder why there is not more awareness of this phenomenon when so many people have food allergies.

      I hope your article receives lots of views to help spread this vital information. Voted up and shared.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Tireless Traveler - This disease can be scary and is often misunderstood. I am glad you read it and that it made sense to you. Thanks for visiting my hub and for your kind comments. I hope our traffic levels out before long and we see improvement. I will stop by your hubs soon if the site is up and running. Blessings, Audrey

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      4 years ago from California

      It is good to know it is usually in combination with other allergies. Although I had heard of this I hadn't liked the idea. Thanks for making it clear.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 years ago from England

      Hi, I have never heard of this so this is very important for everyone, especially people who do exercise after eating, thanks for the info, voted up and shared! nell

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very important information of course. The more we can raise awareness about things like this, the better. Well done!


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