Is it really possible I’m allergic to running? (Another ER visit)

Monday I was all set to go on my 6 miler tempo run. I had had a rather long day with my kids and was anxiously waiting for my husband to get home so I could finally escape run. Thankfully, he came home early and we had a quick chat on whether I should run in our neighborhood or go to the gym. The heat at 6 in the evening was awful and coupled with humidity (and hot wind), it just didn’t seem at all pleasant–so to the gym I went.

I started with an uneventful warm up and at mile 2 picked up the pace. I was sweating profusely but feeling good. If you’ve been following my running journey, then you know that I vary rarely listen to music when I run. I sometimes pull out the headphones when I’m on the treadmill though and today was one of those days. I was jamming out to a Shakira station on Pandora and in a serious running groove. When all of a sudden… palms starting itching.

I knew instantly what was happening. I tried to ignore it and wish it away but by the time I got to mile 4 I knew it was only going to get worse.

I was having another allergic reaction.

A million thoughts raced through my mind. What could have caused it? I’m inside for crying out loud! On a treadmill!

The first time this happened, I was running in my neighborhood and thought it could have been some flowers, trees, or bushes I’d passed. I had also eaten right before running and we all thought maybe it was that as well.

But this time, I was at the gym. I had not eaten before exercising. I wasn’t wearing anything that I wore previously. What. Could. It. Be?

I cut the run short at 4.5 miles and collected my belongings. I knew I had enough time to get home.



I called my husband on my way to let him know what was going on. We thought about whether I should head straight to the ER or go home. I decided to go home first and when my husband saw me, he said it was definitely a hospital worthy visit. I’ll spare you the head shot but my arms and legs were covered in hives.


Interestingly, I looked way worse the first time. My face was a replica of Will Smith’s allergic reaction in the movie Hitch and my entire body from head to toe was swollen and red.

But in this most recent episode, I felt much, much worse on the inside. My brain felt like it was swelling. That’s what was scaring me the most. There was just an intense pressure in my head that wouldn’t cease.

I drove myself to the hospital (my kids were already in bed) and was checked in pretty quickly despite the Emergency Room being extremely crowded. I was given steroids and Benedryl and they worked almost immediately. The swelling went down, the itching stopped, and my head felt a lot better.

But I was still with no answers. No idea what could have caused it. I plan on seeing an allergist (I foolishly didn’t see one the first time) in the hopes we can find some clues. In the meantime, I have to continue running with my EPI pen and make sure I respond quick to the symptoms. At least I know when it’s happening.

I just hate that I have no idea what triggers it.

I don’t want to run in fear. I don’t want my husband to stress out whenever I leave for a run. I don’t want to stop running.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 10.19.06 PM

Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis—bah humbug!!

Thanks for listening and letting me vent. ❤

–Doesn’t being allergic to running sound awful??

–Tell me something positive that’s been happening in your running world 🙂






55 responses

  1. Holy crap, that’s some scary stuff! Maybe you should see an allergist??? As for something positive, I was having a great run yesterday when good old south FLA lightning showed up. Next thing I know, there’s the hubby pulling up next to me in his truck. Hubs saving you from getting zapped = always a positive. 🙂

  2. That’s so scary! Glad you’re taking the step of seeing an allergist–I’m sure they’ll be able to figure out what’s going on. I hope you get some answers soon!

  3. That is really scary stuff. I had a similar allergic reaction in April after a long run, but I also got bit by a bug at some point that evening so I never attributed it to running. I had lumps on the bottom of my feet that were the size of tennis balls and my face looked like I was beat with a baseball bat. They couldn’t give me any answers in the ER either – just Benadryl, steroids, and an Epi pen. I didn’t go to a follow up with an allergist either because I assumed it was an isolated incident, but after reading this I may reconsider. Hope you get some answers soon! Sorry to hear you’re going through this!

  4. I hate hate hate hate hate this. It worries me to no end that you weren’t able to get answers. BUT the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I’ve been thinking maybe the headphone thing and you have a latex allergy. I did some googling and came up with some results of people saying something similar so it’s worth checking out!

  5. Oh no! I hope the allergist is able to get you back up and running safely soon. Hives are the absolute worst and I know that prickly feeling when they start popping up is just terrible.

    I am allergic to almost everything (literally) and my allergist has really helped me deal with life.

  6. That is pretty scary. Glad everything subsided and no real issues came up. I have psoriasis and had to find out what kept causing red irritation on my legs and arms. Once I found out I have been incident free because I know what to stay away from. Things will be much better after seeing the allergist.

  7. Oh god that’s terrible!! I hope you get better soon! I was bit by some bugs on my last run and had a allergic reaction as I cut my run short and ran home. Now I’m on antibiotics and resting for the week despite having a race this Saturday ):

  8. Yikes! I hope you find some answers soon. I heard of a girl who had something similar happen when she ran. Come to find out she was basically allergic to exercise (a few girls in my PE class in high school would be so jealous). A few meds and she was good to go. Fingers crossed!

  9. So sorry to hear that this happened again. 😦 If you had your EPI pen with you at the gym would you have used it? (Is it just as effective as the steriods/benadryl if you catch the reaction in time? Not sure how EPIs work.) Luckily it sounds like you really kept your cool despite feeling terrible – glad you were able to get yourself to the ER without further incident!

    Something positive in my running world is that I’m running my first night race tomorrow! Unlike your 27k, it’s only a 5k and it’s on pavement in a corporate center… no wildlife to worry about. 🙂 I know you said you weren’t worried about snakes, but I think I still would be if I was running in the desert at night!

  10. So scary and frustrating :(. I hope you at least find out what is triggering the reaction so that you can learn how to deal with it and hopefully prevent it.

  11. That sounds horrible- sorry to hear. I hope you get answers from the allergy specialist so you can either prevent it, or at least know if something will happen.
    Something positive in the running world- I ran TWICE this week for 30 minutes!! That’s huge in coming back from injury!!
    Take care of yourself!

  12. Wow – that’s pretty scary! I hope you and your doctor can figure it out. I have heard of people who have allergic reactions to exercise but if it’s only happened twice it’s probably something else. Take care!

  13. Oh my god, reading this gave me chills! I am so sorry to hear about this happening again! I know you must be so worried and I wish I had something to say that could make it better. At least you are taking the right steps to learn more about what is going on. Hopefully this won’t happen again and you can keep running!

    • I’ve ran outside in pretty insane heat before. And the first time it happened was in the spring when it wasn’t hot at all. It was super hot and humid the day it happened the second time–which was the reason I took it to the treadmill. Did not think at all it would happened at the gym 😦

  14. Ugh that sucks! Definitely a good idea to see an allergist this time- hopefully you can get an answer. The only thing I could guess is maybe you’re allergic to a specific fiber in certain clothes? Regardless I hope it’s it quick & painless diagnosis.
    Not positive news here 😦 I’ve had a string of bad runs recently, but I’m trying to remind myself that all training cycles have their ups & downs, and I’m just on a down right now. Reminder to self: it’s not the end of the world 🙂

    • Both times I was wearing stuff I’ve worn before 😦
      I’m sorry you’re going through some rough times. I always tell myself, “When you’re down, you have no where else to go but up!” Hope things get better for you!

  15. OH no! That doesn’t sound like fun… Does it happen to you only when you run on a treadmill? Maybe it could be a reaction to the stuff they wipe/clean it with? This is the only explanation that I can really think of. I hope it’s nothing serious though.

    Something positive… Well, my Spartan Beast is less than 3 weeks away. I am excited and scared at the same time. I’ve never run a distance over 16.8km, let alone in the mountains. Just in case you don’t know, it’s a 20+km mud obstacle race in the mountains. So yup… Can’t wait! 😀

    Get better soon!


    • No, the first time it happened was outside so it was just so strange that it happened again but on the treadmill?? So weird!

      WOW!! Go you for doing a Spartan Race! You’re going to kill it I’m sure!! Looking forward to reading all about it!

  16. I saw Salt’s suggestion that it might be the latex of your earbuds (did you have the earbuds in when you had your first attack?) hopefully that is all it is, and you can just ditch them altogether.

    I can’t imagine it’s just running — you’ve done it so many other times without a reaction. Fingers crossed for you!

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  18. I had something similar happen to me last summer. After many tests it was determined to be stress related. When I get stressed out, really stressed I’ll break out in hives with serious swelling and itching all over. I’m on medication for anxiety now and it has helped. My doctor told me to continue with my exercise routine.Sometimes when I run, if it’s been a stressful week, I can feel the beginning symptoms but since beginning the meds I haven’t broke out during a run or after.