Many of us joke that we cannot go to the gym because we are allergic to exercise. For Mrs Beaver, a mother of four, this is a reality. If she works up a sweat she is at risk of a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction.
Even chasing after her kids or running for a bus bring on symptoms of a swelling face, puffed up eyes which eventually shut, and inflammation of the airways. She has been told that if she has eaten certain foods her risk of EIA is probably much greater.
In an interview with a British national newspaper, the Daily Mail, Mrs Beaver said:
"When I get an attack, my eyes swell up and start to itch. Within five minutes, they're completely closed. It's terrifying, especially if I'm alone with the children. I was ice skating with my husband when I had a really bad attack. I had to use an epiPen to bring the swelling down.
People don't believe me when I tell them I'm allergic to exercise. They think it's just an excuse to be lazy. But the truth is, I used to go the gym all the time. I was really sporty. I was a size ten."
Exercise Allergy Symptoms Started in Her Early 20sMrs. Beaver remembers her first attack. She says it was just over twelve years ago when she was in her early twenties before becoming pregnant with her first child. Her eyes started to swell and she thought she was having a bad reaction to some eye make up she had bought.
It took three days for the swelling to go down, even though she had stopped using the make up.
In the gym one day, during a normal exercise session, she felt tightness around her eyes. Her mother told her she looked strange and took her to A&E (Accident & Emergency, the UK equivalent of hospital emergency room). She was prescribed antihistamines and had a cold compress applied to the eyes.
The medication and cold compresses helped initially. However, the problems kept recurring. Even walking a few hundred yards would bring on the symptoms.
Years Passed Before Exercise Was Linked to the Allergic ReactionsMrs. Beaver lived with intermittent bouts of inflammation and skin reactions (hives) for years before she realized it was linked to exercise.
For years, doctors and specialists had her on a range of medications, all of them antihistamines. However, her allergic episodes became steadily more frequent and severe.
When her heart races her eyes can swell up. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mrs Beaver said that once she was on a bus with her four kids when the driver suddenly swerved, braked hard and the stroller (buggy) tipped up. "My eyes instantly swelled up. I had all four children with me and I didn't know what to do. The girls were crying. I couldn't see and Jay (oldest daughter) had to take us to my sister's house."
It soon became clear to her that not only exercise was linked to the attacks, but also an increase in hear heart rate (pulse rate) without exercise. She said that at the time her sex life had become virtually non-existent.
She was referred to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who was baffled and suggested she saw a dermatologist. The dermatologist was also stumped.
Finally, an Exercise-Induced Angioedema DiagnosisMrs. Beaver went to visit an expert in Norwich, a city in the East of England, where she was eventually diagnosed with Exercise-Induced Angioedema (EIA), a condition that brings on swelling and hives when exercising or when the person's heart rate accelerates - this probably occurs after eating certain foods.
Experts say that EIA has also been linked to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland).
After years of wondering what was wrong with her, going from doctor-to-doctor, and even wondering whether she was going crazy, Mrs. Beaver said it was a relief to put a name to her condition.
The specialist warned her that because her condition was so rare, her treatment would be "exploratory". Initially, she was given a range of medications - unfortunately, none of them worked.
She was finally put on a new kind of antihistamine that seems to offer some help. She can now walk to the park for the first time in ten years. Doing workouts in the gym is still ruled out, though. Mrs. Beaver hopes to be able to do strenuous exercise again one day.
EpiPen - she has been prescribed an epiPen to prevent an attack from developing into an anaphylactic shock. So far, she has not needed to use it since being on the new antihistamine.
Experts believe Exercise-Induced Angioedema (EIA) is Food-RelatedMrs. Beaver says she has been tested for all sorts of food allergies. Although experts believe that EIA is food-related - episodes of allergic attacks occur during exercise after eating certain foods - in her case they do not know what food it is.
In an interview with ABC News, Mrs. Beaver said "If I knew what food it was I would stop eating it."
Doctors are seeing more cases of exercise-induced allergies after eating - in this video below, Dr. Shah talks about exercise-induced allergies among patients after they have eaten certain foods. He explains that the percentage of his patients with this problem is still very small, but rising.
Written by Christian Nordqvist