Strange but true: Girl’s food allergy only activated with exercise

One teenaged girl in Canada may have the best excuse to not exercise after she experienced anaphylaxis from eating rice crackers and hummus and then exercised on her treadmill. According to a recent report, the 17-year-old ran for just 10 minutes before her lips started to swell and she developed puffy eyes, hives, itching and abdominal pain.

She was taken to the emergency room where she was treated with Benadryl and epinephrine and recovered about three hours later. It was then she also got the news from her doctors that she had experienced a rare but serious exercise-induced food allergy.

“We hope that this case will serve as an important reminder that although rare, food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis exists and making a diagnosis can lead to life-saving preventative strategies,” the researchers at Montreal Children’s Hospital, who worked on the girl’s case, wrote in their report, published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports.

The girl later went to an allergy clinic, where testing revealed that chickpeas had triggered her allergic reaction. Since she had eaten chickpeas on a number of different occasions without any reaction, the doctors concluded that she in fact experience food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis, or FDEIA. The article explains that people with this condition do not react to either the food or the exercise by itself, but only when the two are combined.

Unlike other food allergies, FDEIA is more common in teens and adults than in children, and why the allergy occurs only after exercise is not clear. It’s thought, however, that the physical effort needed in exercise triggers a physiological change that enhances the absorption of the allergen in the intestines, the researchers said.

The doctors recommended that the girl avoid eating chickpeas, or foods like hummus that contain chickpeas, two hours before or after exercise. Since her diagnosis the article states that the girl has eaten hummus and fresh chickpeas without exercising, and she has not experienced any allergic reactions.

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