Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Food-Dependent Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis

by Laura, age 20. Allergic to milk and fish.

I thought the pollen was bothering me, but I was wrong. I had been playing tennis with my sister and two of our friends when I started to feel funny. I usually just fight through the irritation from the pollen, but this time I wanted to go home. I just wanted to be by a box of Kleenex.

On the way home, I started to realize that my lip felt a little funny. I figured that I had probably been biting it when I was trying not to sneeze. When I arrived home five minutes later, I went straight to take some Benadryl®. This is when I noticed that I was having trouble swallowing. I finally realized I was going into anaphylaxis, gave myself a shot of epinephrine, and spent a few hours in the emergency room.

The next day I learned that my allergist believed I had exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which is when exercising after eating a specific food causes you to go into anaphylaxis. My triggers? Turkey and chicken. I didn’t really know what to think when I first heard this. I knew how to handle regular food allergies. But this? This ruined my system.

With milk and fish, my two nemeses, I just would eat before I went out, and then pack extra food in case I got hungry. With exercise-induced anaphylaxis, I had to start thinking about where I was going before I would just automatically fill up for the evening. Was I going to be someplace where I didn’t have to run around or sweat? Or would I be going swimming or ice-skating?

Timing was another issue. I knew I was supposed to wait two hours, but what if I was 15 minutes short? I didn’t want to take the chance. I learned to time my eating just right, so I wouldn’t have to explain to my friends why I couldn’t participate in the activity.

Eventually, I began to stop making excuses when I landed in a situation where I needed to wait longer. I just began to explain. People didn’t always respect my reasoning, saying that nothing like exercise-induced anaphylaxis could ever be real. I would fire off and say, “Oh yeah? Then how come I experienced it last summer?”

I was angry. I felt like allergies were taking over my life, and I didn’t know how to get them to go away. I finally learned that I just needed to stop worrying so much. Now I just plan in advance, and if someone is disrespectful to me about it, I take my time in deciding whether I want to respond calmly or just walk away.

Exercise made me nervous at first. Because of this, I avoided exercise for almost the whole summer after my experience. Now, I’ve learned I might have to plan in advance more, but I can still play basketball, go to spin class, or ice-skate with my friends. And it’s worth it. Exercise-induced anaphylaxis does not deserve to control my actions.

Want to know more about food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis?

Check out the article in our Food Allergy 101 section.

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