SOME people joke about being allergic to exercise but for Rowville woman Sam Mollica it is a deadly reality.
Ms Mollica, 28, has a rare condition known as exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which causes her to have a severe allergic reaction after she exercises.
She had her first life-threatening anaphylactic attack after her regular morning run just over three years ago. Five similar attacks followed over the next 13 months.
“They would generally come on after I had been for a run; I would feel quite crook, I would get really hot, and I would go in and out of consciousness,” Ms Mollica said.
She started carrying an EpiPen while doctors worked to find out what was causing the attacks.
Ms Mollica started seeing Dr Sara Barnes, head of allergy at Monash Health, who diagnosed her with exercise-induced anaphylaxis.
Two years ago Ms Mollica began a medical trial with the allergy department at Monash Health, having a monthly injection of a medication called Omalizumab.
She hasn’t had an attack since and has been able to start exercising again.
“There were a number of cases across the world … where this medication has been used in patients like (Ms Mollica) and it’s been shown to stop the anaphylaxis,” Dr Barnes said.
“(Ms Mollica) responded to it beautifully.
“The hospital actually pays for it, it is not government subsidised, it costs $400 a month and Monash Health has been paying that, because obviously we don’t want one of our patients dying from a condition we could potentially control.”
Dr Barnes said the condition was very similar to food-induced anaphylaxis.
“For some people when they exercise they can actually have the exact same reaction (as someone who has a food allergy).
“But it’s not like they have eaten something or put a cream on; they are actually allergic to exercise.
“The heart rate doesn’t necessarily have to go up very high — for some people with this condition even walking can trigger off the anaphylaxis.”
She said she didn’t know how many people had the condition in Australia, but it was very rare.
“Some people when they eat wheat and then exercise they experience anaphylaxis that is more common; (Ms Mollica) is currently the only patient I have that has pure exercise-induced anaphylaxis.”
Ms Mollica is now training for the 10km Run Melbourne event on July 30 to raise money for the Monash Health allergy department.