David Parry/Reuters via The Atlantic

Believe it or not, people actually can experience an allergic reaction while working out, and hitting the gym can be life-threatening. Fortunately, it’s not super common, and there are ways to stay active when you’ve got an allergy to exercise.

An Allergy To Exercise

Have you ever teased that you’re “allergic to exercise” when you didn’t want to hit the gym? Most people would be happy for an excuse to stay in from running or lifting weights. However, there are some people who truly can’t exercise without putting their lives on the line.

While you may hate exercise, an inability to safely exercise isn’t something you should wish for. This frightening condition makes it seemingly impossible to so much as go for a jog. But what exactly makes a person “allergic” to exercise?

What It Really Means

While you may feel like a hard workout might kill you, some people face a real threat when exercising. The reason? Exercise-induced anaphylaxis. This condition, which affects around 50 in 100,000 people, experience extreme physical symptoms after kicking off a sweaty workout. Typically, exercise-induced anaphylaxis occurs when mixed with another allergy, such as a food allergy.

If someone consumes a food they’re potentially allergic to before working out, the increase in blood being pumped combined with the contents of their stomach can lead to vomiting, itching, and trouble breathing. Some people also suffer from cholinergic urticaria, which causes an itchy heat rash when you exercise. But what can be done to treat these issues?

How To Stay Active

If you truly have an exercise allergy but want to get in good workouts, all hope isn’t lost. For people whose allergy is triggered by food, it’s best to avoid eating two hours before exercising to avoid any reactions. For those who experience heat rash, a simple warm-up before hitting the gym may ease some of the symptoms.

Doctors recommend stretching or doing light, “cool” exercise rather than diving right into your workout to avoid developing a rash. Since it’s triggered by an increase in body heat, starting off small and building up your workout can save you from irritation and itchiness. If you’ve got an exercise-induced allergy, consider talking to your doctor to find out the best ways to stay active!