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Exercise-Induced Allergic Reactions

By

Peter J. Delves

, PhD, University College London, London, UK

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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GET THE QUICK FACTS

Exercise-induced allergic reactions occur during or after exercise.

  • Exercise can trigger or worsen asthma or, rarely, a severe allergic (anaphylactic) reaction.

  • Doctors usually base the diagnosis on symptoms and their relationship to exercise.

  • Drugs used to treat asthma can usually prevent symptoms from developing during exercise, but becoming more physically fit and gradually increasing the intensity and duration of exercise also helps.

Exercise can trigger the following:

Typically, symptoms triggered by exercise—asthma or an anaphylactic reaction—occur after 5 to 10 minutes of vigorous exercise. Sometimes symptoms begin after exercise has stopped.

Diagnosis

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • An exercise challenge test

The diagnosis of exercise-induced allergic reactions is based on the symptoms and their relationship to exercise.

Treatment

  • Drugs used to treat asthma

  • Avoidance of possible triggers

For people with exercise-induced asthma, the goal of treatment is to be able to exercise without symptoms. Becoming more physically fit may make symptoms less likely to develop during exercise. Inhaling a beta-adrenergic drug (such as those used to treat asthma Drugs Commonly Used to Treat Asthma Drugs allow most people with asthma to lead relatively normal lives. Most of the drugs used to treat an asthma attack can be used (often in lower doses) to prevent attacks. (See also Asthma... read more Drugs Commonly Used to Treat Asthma ) about 15 minutes before starting to exercise often helps prevent reactions. Cromolyn, usually taken through an inhaler, may be helpful.

For people with asthma, taking the drugs usually used to control asthma often prevents symptoms from developing during exercise. Taking drugs to treat asthma and gradually increasing the intensity and duration of exercise enables some people with asthma to tolerate exercise.

People who have had an exercise-induced anaphylactic reaction should avoid the form of exercise that triggered the attack. If eating a specific food before exercise triggers symptoms, they should not eat the food before exercise.

A self-injecting syringe of epinephrine should always be carried for prompt emergency treatment. Exercising with other people is recommended.

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