6 Tips for Athletes With Allergies

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on December 16, 2020

Whether your children play baseball, soccer, basketball, football, or do other activities, you want them to be safe and have fun.

Many children have allergies. Most cases are mild, but some can have severe reactions to certain triggers. Doctors call this anaphylaxis. Food allergies and insect stings are among the most common causes. Sometimes kids can have this kind of reaction when they’re exposed to allergens before or during exercise.

Be Prepared

Being active is good for all kids. And with a little time to plan, a child with severe allergies can still take part in games and sports. These tips should help.

  1. Visit an allergist. Take your child to an allergy specialist. The doctor can do tests to find out what your child is allergic to, how severe the allergy is, prescribe medication, and give you advice that will help your kid avoid allergy triggers.
  2. Take the sting out of flying insects. Protect kids who are highly allergic to bees, wasps, and other stinging insects with a technique called desensitization (or immunotherapy). The allergist injects a tiny amount of insect venom under your child's skin. They slowly raise the amount of venom over a period of about 3 months, until your child can tolerate the allergen. This technique is a great way to control insect allergies.
  3. Ask about epinephrine shots. Kids who are severely allergic to insect stings or certain foods often carry an epinephrine injection with them to the field. Your allergist can decide if your child needs one and show you how to use it. Your child and their teachers, caregivers, and coaches should also know how to use it.
  4. Take medications. Kids with severe seasonal allergies can take antihistamines or get allergy shots ahead of time so pollen doesn't sideline them during the spring.
  5. Make a plan. Your child needs an allergy plan, in writing, signed by you and your allergist. The plan should list your child's allergy triggers, symptoms, and medications. Give a copy of the plan to your child's coaches and school.
  6. Pack your child's food. The safest way for kids with severe food allergies to eat on the road is to pack meals and snacks at home. That way, you know there are no triggers. Make sure your child knows what to avoid, in case they're offered something when you're not around.
  7. Know the signs: Symptoms of exercise-induced anaphylaxis include:

Keep in mind, these symptoms can result from other causes. But when it’s anaphylaxis, your child needs immediate medical treatment.

  1. Spread the word. Your child may never have anaphylaxis. Still, every adult who is caring for them needs to know the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction and what to do if it happens. They should also know that an epinephrine injection isn’t a cure -- it gives you a brief window to get your child to the emergency room. The coach or other adults need to know that they must call 911 right away and take your child to the nearest ER, even if they seem OK.
WebMD Medical Reference



J. Allen Meadows, MD, ACAAI Public Education Committee chairman.

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Don't Let Stinging Insects Ruin Your Fun in the Sun."

Hosey, R. American Family Physician, Oct. 15, 2001.

Medscape: “Epinephrine and Is Use in Anaphylaxis: Current Issues.”

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