Can exercise cause allergic reaction?

Do you break out in hives just thinking about exercise? Or maybe you’re one of those lucky people who feels invigorated after a workout. Whether exercise is your happy place or it makes you want to curl up on the couch with a jar of Nutella, allergic reactions may be lurking around the corner.

So, can exercise cause allergic reactions? The short answer: Yes. But as always, there’s more to the story.

Types of Allergic Reactions

Before we dive into how exercise can trigger an allergy, let’s review the different types of allergic reactions:

  • Type I: Immediate hypersensitivity reaction
    • Typically occurs within minutes of exposure
    • Symptoms include hives, swelling, itching, and potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis
  • Type II: Antibody-dependent cytotoxic reaction
    • Occurs when antibodies target cells for destruction by immune system cells
  • Type III: Immune-complex mediated hypersensitivity reaction
    • Occurs when antigens bind with antibodies and form complexes that deposit in tissues throughout the body.
  • Type IV: Delayed hypersensitivity (cell-mediated) reaction
    • Takes 24–48 hours for symptoms to develop
    • Examples include poison ivy rash and tuberculin skin test

The most common type of allergy associated with physical activity is type I immediate hypersensitivity.

Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis

Some unlucky individuals experience an extreme form of immediate hypersensitivity called exercise-induced anaphylaxis (EIA). During EIA episodes, symptoms range from mild skin irritation to potential deadly consequences. In some cases,fainting abnormally low blood pressure can occur If adrenaline isn’t delivered quickly via medication such as EpiPen.

Those experiencing EIA have reported various triggers including food intake before exercising(such as seafood), pollen etc along side are more prone. As it affects only a small section in society an EIA medication approval has also not passed yet.

Food-Dependent Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis

One specific kind of immediate hypersensitivity is food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis (FDEIA). In these cases, ingesting certain foods prior to exercising can trigger the body’s immune response, leading to potentially serious hives and airway constriction even life-threatning situation.The most common FDEIA triggers are shellfish like shrimps,certain nuts such as peanuts etc.

What differentiates FDEIA from regular old EIA? The fact that you have to eat something before getting physical,otherwise no allergies will occur.

Symptoms Of Allergic Reactions Due To Exercise

For those suffering from allergic reactions associated with exercise other than EPI or FDI.A few more symptoms to watch out for once your heart rate goes pumping:

  • Hives
  • Itchiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nasal congestion
  • Abdominal cramping or diarrhea

Don’t worry only running behind bus because of boredom won’t lead you here.(jokes aside)
These are telltale signs that you might be experiencing some type of allergy.
But please note whenever experiencing any symptoms call for medical help immediately rather then googling ‘My finger hurts after 1 pushup am I going make it alive?’

Causes of Allergic Reations Post Exercises

Researchers aren’t exactly sure why all this happens but this condition strikes best guesses anyway,

Heat – Related Episodes

One theory suggeststhatelevated body temperature caused by exertion can lead to dilation expansion off blood vessels causing swelling hence rapid cooling techniques such hot weather warm up reduced sweating adding layers etc should be taken in consideration.

Friction & Pressure

Physical activity involves rubbing between skin surfaces which then becomes moist due sweat leading towards irritation rashes etc which might look like allergic reactions. But trust me they’re different things.


Maybe you’ve heard of histamine during allergy season; It’s involved in an immune response that includes symptoms such as congestion, runny nose,rash and itiching. Exercise triggers the release of histamine (among other substances), which can lead to temporary swelling,itchiness,difficulties in breathing patterns etc(too much science maybe?)


Allergies tend not to be common but are definitely a possibility.Avoiding food or medications before exercise can help if exercising intensley helps limit exposure by doing light exercises(staysafe). However,some people have FDEIA and all hell breaks loose when one chooses to eat right things wrong time.It is best consult with a doctor allergist for proactive measures.

The bottom line is that yes, exercise can cause allergic reactions.
But don’t let that stop you from moving your body,the benefits outweigh the risks in many cases.You only live once afterall ,and what better way then being healthy.Learn how delicate any athlete/game/whatever their affliation may be just take care !