I’m allergic to peanuts. I’ve been saying it for years. Back in high school, starting in my freshman year, during cross country I started having allergic reactions after some of my runs. The first one happened after a Sunday long run with my friend Heather. I remember it started with itchy palms and then just exploded into the need to get into a cold shower immediately, compulsive (and somewhat convulsive) itching all over my body, my eyes, lips, cheeks and feet swelling up substantially, and a lot of discomfort. I remember itching my skin off as my mom drove me to the ER. By the time they got me in and gave me 4 nice shots in my backside the reaction was calming down.

I had about 6 of these that I can remember in High School. My parents and I tried desperately to catalog what I had eaten. We really searched long and hard and our only conclusion was nuts: peanuts and pistachios. The day I had my first reaction I had downed an entire bag of pistachios (I was a teenager), and several of the other times I had a PB&J for lunch.

But really, the one commonality between all the reactions is that I had just finished running.

My last reaction was when I was 17. For years I carried an EPI Pen and Benadryl wherever I went. Doctors had cautioned me that the anaphylactic reaction I experience could cause my tongue and throat to swell, and that I could loose the ability to breathe if the reaction was bad enough. I had never experienced tongue or throat swelling so I assumed this was a long shot. About 5 years ago I quit carrying the EPI pen as I hadn’t had a reaction in 6 years. I try to keep Benadryl in all my emergency kits and at home just in case.

Last night Troy wanted to get in a 40 minute run on the treadmill in our apartment complex gym. I said I would join him for 20 minutes so that I could warm up my legs in hopes that he would stretch me afterwards. Troy has been great through this knee discomfort and has been helping me stretch after my workouts this week. It’s provided a lot of relief so I was hoping he would indulge me.

I ran my 20 and was giddy giddy giddy. I got off the treadmill and my palms started itching. Then my feet. Troy asked what was wrong and I said “I think I’m having an allergic reaction”. He asked if he should stop running and I said YES. I ran back to our apartment and started stripping cloths along the way to get into the shower. And…what hasn’t happened in 12 years happened. Full Blown. Allegric Reaction. The itching, the pain. Compulsive. Comes in Waves. Miserable.

Troy is on the phone with my parents. Everyone is trying to remember what we did 12 years ago when these were more regular. Right away I took three Benadryl. My dad called our family friend doctor and he said 2 Benadryl and watch the tongue and throat.

And this time, for the first time, my tongue started to swell. And my throat started to swell. I felt like I had cotton in my mouth and it was uncomfortable to swallow. I kept opening my mouth to Troy, asking him if the hole was getting smaller. He shook his head with his normal calm demeanor and told me “I am watching it and we will do the right thing when the time is right”. I talked to him about where the urgent care was and where the ER was. We discussed directions, and we waited. I laid there in the tub and complained about our crappy insurance and that I didn’t want to go to the doctor unless it was 100% necessary b/c I didn’t want to pay our $4000 deductible. If you drive by an ER they send you a bill for $500.

We waited. We watched. I itched. And in time (about 90 minutes) the drama started to wear off. We were able to get me out of the tub and into clothing and into bed. At this point it was really hard to keep my eyes open (I had taken 3 Benadryl). Troy loaded up my iPod with some Podcasts to keep me awake and told me he didn’t want me to sleep b/c he couldn’t keep tabs on my throat. I listened, and had a slice of pizza. I was stoked I could get the pizza down with my swollen throat. Little bites. After another 45 minutes Troy came in and said I was looking better, the throat was not getting worse and I could sleep. I was out before you could say Mississippi.

This morning I look horrible but feel great. My eyes are extremely swollen and I have a lot of scratches, but I can breathe well, I don’t itch, and I am basically back to normal. The strange part…I didn’t have any peanuts or pistachios yesterday. I had very basic foods yesterday, so I am pretty much back to square on with what causes all of this. I do know that I now need to get another prescription for an EPI pen, and I need to resume tucking a few Benadrly into handy places.

Swelling just starting, right after the first bout with the erratic itchies.
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Swelling after 30 minutes, and several bouts of the erratic itchies.
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This morning, itchies gone, but the eye swelling is nasty.
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Family, health, Running

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21 Comments

  1. Hi!
    This just happened to me for the first time too! Well, now it’s happened twice. The first time I went for an easy run near my house, and at the end of it my eyes and lips were crazy swollen and I had hives all over my body. Drove home from the park, took a reactine and waited – it calmed down after 3 days. About a month after that, I went on my normal trail, for my normal run and it started right away! About 15 minutes into the run my hands started tingling and I brushed it off, not thinking that crazy reaction would happen again. About a half hour later, though, my feet were itchy and I could feel my lips starting to feel numb. I had benydryl in my pocket, took two, and started to walk the 4kms back to my car. The swelling continued to get worse so I went to a clinic, where I fainted, causing all kinds of drama! A visit to ER and a perscription for an EpiPen.
    The strangest thing – I have been running these trails for months, I am 27 and have been active my whole life. Played soccer all through school and never had anything like this happen! I can’t seem to connect it to any food (and there have only been 2 reactions so it’s hard to tell) and the only thing I can think of is maybe pollen? We have had an abnormally hot and dry summer – maybe a certain pollen has been able to accumulate more than normal…but again, it only happened twice and I ran those same trails probably 8-10 times in between reactions so I don’t know.

    Anyway, I guess my question is: does everyone just keep running and working out and just be prepared for a reaction to happen (and hope for the best)? I can’t imagine NOT running, its already been a week since the last attack and while I’m nervous to run again, I’m also going CRAZY not running. Thanks!

  2. So now this post is one of the first when you google “allergy running”. Yeah, it happened to me too today, exactly the same syptoms as you describe. I was running outside and wasn’t wearing any new shirt or anything. After reading all this, I guess I should see a doctor.

  3. I went into anaphylactic shock on Friday while on the treadmill. I too, oddly enough, was wearing a new shirt i had not washed yet-didn’t strike me as a possibility of the attack until I saw this. It has now happened to my sister twice (one time so severe that she had to have a tube down her throat to help her breathe)-she too was in the gym. Possibly an allergy to something the treadmill is made of or an ingredient in the cleaner they use?

  4. Yes Marko!

    A visit to the doctor would definitely be a must. The article that I posted above in the comments was very helpful to me, and I hope it will be to you too. While you remember you might want to wright down everything you ate, or wore on the day of the attack!

    Best of luck!

  5. Hi! Today after running 20 minutes on treadmill I felt my eyes swelling a bit so I skipped my recular workout and went to shower. After the shower I looked at the mirror and I did not regocnice myself anymore. I looked like a pale eyes swollen vampire. I noted that my eyes were running and my nose felt thighter. Breathing felt weird but I managed to get my clothes on and headed towards home. When I got home I had a need to take my clothes of as quicly as possible. My body was red and itchy all over.

    I had a similar attack 2 years ago and didn’t make a huge deal about it but now the reaction seemed stronger so I got really worried.

    And after reading your blog it seems that I should visit a doctor. Luckily I live in Finland where the healthcare is all most free so that I don’t have to worry about my insurance 😀

  6. Ummm, yea, that’s cause I’m the adventurer. I’m not scared of swimming into the kept forrest, no way, I’ll go in there with no fear.

    Now Troy….well, he’s more content to view things from a distance.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  7. Wow that’s fascinating I’ve never heard of it, but so glad you’ve found out, for the most part, what it is.

    So sorry to hear about your knee – but your trip sounded great! I love how you have kelp on your head in each picture but Troy never does – what’s up with that?

  8. So I apparently have Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis. My friend Rosemary forwarded to me this article and it is dead on!

    http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/886641-overview

    Now I just have to figure out my food trigger, but luckily the article gives some suggestions.

    Kim, does your sneezing happen when you go in the sun? I once read an article that 10% of people have a sneezing reaction to the sunlight. I wonder if that’s it?

  9. What about an allergy that is more sneezing/twinge in the nose? I get that and it happens as soon as I am done running and lingers for the rest of the day. It does sound crazy, but I have an allergy to running too!

    Has anyone heard or have my type of reaction?

  10. Hey Sonja,
    I, too, am sorry about the scariness of your ordeal. But, the pictures are great! I love that you documented the experience with pictures of yourself suffering through it! HA!

    Hope you get it all figured out soon.

  11. OK so I have to call it as I see it. I have trained with you for over a year and I know what you look after a REALLY Hard workout or race (We have done enough of both). You look really good in the pictures above!!!! I mean the first picture says “CALM” to me. The second picture say “Hi Troy I am feeling a little different, maybe it’s the drugs” and the third is the best, it says to me ” here is my best stink eye just before I kick your A** today” I am sorry about how you felt but great Pictures.

    T

  12. You know, now that I have thought about it for a few days, the one thing that was out of the ordinary was that I wore a new running shirt that I just took the tag off and didn’t wash before. I’m wondering if that might have been it.

    Thanks for everyones comments, I’m still trying to figure out what went wrong!

  13. That is scary! I’m so curious, as I’m sure you are too, to know what it is. I, as I’m sure you do too, wish you had better insurance to go to an allergist and figure out what the cause is. And lastly, I’m gald, as I’m sure you are too, you’re okay! This comment has been brought you today but inane statements.

  14. Having 2 kids epi-pen dependent, 1 allergic to nuts and developed later in life which shocked the doc… we were told the allergy could worsen in time. Wonder if someone was on the treadmill before you w/ an energy bar w/ nuts. Didn’t wipe it down enough. Also, many energy bars are processed around nuts. Allergies change. Agreed, can’t be running… just heart rate sped up whatever initiated reaction. I’ve seen Epi’s work w/ our daughter 3 times. We love them as scary as it is. It wouldn’t surprise me if you came in contact w/ nuts or nut oil in some fashion w/out knowing it.

  15. Yea, I’m pretty sure it was something I ate or came into contact with, and the running set off the reaction in my body. At least from my past experiences, and this was just like those but a little worse, it seems to be the running just tips the reaction off.

    Amy, have you investigated the cold? I sometimes get red spots that are like cold welts.

    Allergic to running…yea, I would be in trouble if that was actually the cause.

  16. Oh my goodness – how bizarre/sucky! I have read recently about being allergic to running, as I have had some issues with redness/itching after working out. Obviously not as bad as yours, but uncomfortable enough to check out. What I read said to get out of your running clothes asap and every time it happens catalog what you were wearing. You weren’t wearing something new or different, were you? I’m guessing not. Plus, why would it just now show up, when you’ve been running 40+ miles lately? Super strange. Maybe you’re allergic to treadmills? 🙂

  17. Ah, girl, I am so sorry. I am glad that Troy is calm. Kudos to you, too, for a level head. Sounds like you guys know what to do w/ the Epi. I know dealing w/ insurance stinks… I really hope you guys can figure it out quickly. PULLING for you to get better and figure out the problem!

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