I'm Allergic to Myself?!

To read a detailed description on my previous anaphylaxis episodes please read:

I'm Allergic to Exercise and Forever Allergic to Exercise

Pregnant hiking!
A small recap: I have had three life-threatening anaphylaxis episodes all during exercising (running, hiking and doing krav maga) since 2004 with no clear explanation.
  • January 2009: Our Peru trip, where we hiked 30 miles on the original Inca Trail with no exercise induced anaphylaxis.
  • April 2009: we were blessed to get pregnant to our little boy and he was born in December 2009. All year long I never had any allergic reactions.
  • March 2010: Three months after I gave birth I finally had the energy to go for a morning run since giving birth, only to stop less than a mile because I broke out in hives, burning sensation all over my body and throat tightening.  I visit my regular doctor a few days later and I was referred to my new allergist specialist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Dr. Lee.

We spoke for a very long time about everything that was related to my first incident in October 2004, six years prior.  Foods, medication, exercise, routines, hormonal changes, pregnancy, etc.  Dr. Lee gave me two explanations that only sort of satisfied the need to know what was wrong with me.

NOTE: This was my personal doctor's information in regards to my condition and I am not a medical physician.  Please seek health information and advice from your personal physician.

  1. Food Induced Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis (EIA): Meaning after I ingest a certain food (cheese, milk, nuts, etc) and exercise soon after having eating it, it triggers an anaphylaxis episode.  Therefore, I need to keep a daily food/exercise journal in case I had another episode I would know exactly what was eaten and what I was doing at the time of episode.
  2. Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis (with no external triggers): Meaning something happens inside my body (mostly likely women's hormones) when I exercise that causes an allergic reaction, such as my internal body temperature rising.
In both scenarios, extreme temperatures (cold or hot) and Non Steroidal Anti- Inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) such as Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen, would aggravate the symptoms more.  The example he gave me was throwing lighter fluid (NSAID's) on a small fire on a windy day (Cold or hot temperature).  Not a good combination.  He said the most desired phrase people want to hear from their doctor, "You are allergic to exercise!" but proceeded to say that the only way to combat this condition was to exercise and find what my exercise "threshold" was and continually push the threshold back.  Since I had a long break from really exercising during my pregnancy he said that my threshold was really low and even fast paced walking might be too much.

This really put a damper on running and hiking! Eventually I worked up to running a bit as well as hiking but not as much as I would have liked before I got pregnant with our second child, in January 2011.  A few weeks into my second pregnancy, we went for a long walk and when we returned I was covered in hives and wasvery itchy; within an hour all the hives were gone.  A doctor visit proceeded and my doctor quickly identified that my EIA was not food-induced.  That it was a systematic reaction to my own body, I'm allergic to myself when I exercise! Dr. Lee said it was most likely due to the hormonal pregnancy changes and I was very susceptible to episode during and after pregnancy, even if I breastfed my child.

Huh? I was immediately frustrated.  What was I supposed to to? Not exercise? I wanted to at least walk during my pregnancy without a fear of going into an allergic reaction.  Dr. Lee was very understanding and said I could try to find my threshold during pregnancy and post-pregnancy or I could take Zrytec (regular allergy pill) 2 hours before exercising.  Well I wasn't too keen on taking medication during my pregnancy but I also wasn't to keen on going into anaphylaxis during my pregnancy either.

To summarize the last year and a half of my indecision of exercising, I now take Zyrtec before any type of exercise.  I finally came to the conclusion three weeks into training for my half marathon last year (I came back from a run in hives), it only costs me $0.33 a pill to not go into EIA so why no take it?  My doctor said it was safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeed so why was I fighting it? Just my own stubbornness was causing my not to enjoy being active again.  Since then I have run my first half marathon, been extremely active with hiking and running again and now feel safe when I exercise.

I carry Zyrtec, Fast Melting Benadryl and two Epi-Pens with me at all times and always know where the nearest medical facilities are.  Now I have the freedom to live my active lifestyle that I desire without the fear of dying from EIA.  I thank God for giving me this condition that forces me to never stop exercising and my doctors who helped me find out what was wrong with me..  Thanks to Zyrtec which allows me to exercise again!

So here's to a happy and active lifestyle from someone who's truly allergic to exercising!! If I do it then you should too.