How eating wheat before exercise almost killed one Guernsey woman with rare allergy

  • ITV Channel reporter Roisin Gauson meets Vicki to learn more about her condition and how it has affected her life

A Guernsey woman says she has found a new lease of life after being diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening disease.

Vicki experienced sudden symptoms of itchy skin, rashes and difficulty breathing while exercising.

She explained: "The first time was about eight years ago, I was running around Pembroke and when I stopped the run I noticed that I was really itchy and my skin was burning.

"I lifted up my leggings and I could see these awful hives, a rash.

"It was awful because I had to run back home and my eyes were swollen, it was a horrible experience. I was struggling to breathe and I was panicked."

"Exercise means a lot to me for my mental health and well-being but when these attacks happened, it knocked me for six and kept me indoors." Credit: Vicki Martel

Vicki was suffering from wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis (WDEIA).

It is a serious and potentially life-threatening form of wheat allergy that can cause the throat to swell up, chest pains and severe difficulty breathing and swallowing.

Allergy Clinic Lead Dr Vicky Carre added: "Vicki can eat wheat and not physically exert herself, she can go and do exercise having not eaten [wheat], it's when the wheat comes together with the physical exertion, that’s when the body reacts with anaphylaxis.

"It's such a strange and rare phenomenon, I don't think the immunology behind it is fully understood yet."

"It's scary, it's overwhelming. Your anxiety increases and you don't want to go out and do it again." Credit: Vicki Martel

After her first anaphylaxic attack, Vicki experienced another after a swim and a third shortly after going off a walk.

She became increasingly concerned which put her off her regular exercise.

Vicki added: "After [my first] attack, I didn't know how I would react afterwards and it shook me up because I was almost scared of the outdoors because this is where it happened.

"I didn't want to be out and about, especially after just going out for a short walk and having it happen."

"I go run and see the most beautiful sunrises, it sets me up for the day. It's not just exercise, it's health and health is wealth.” Credit: Vicki Martel

After eight years of struggling with the symptoms, Vicki finally managed to get her WDEIA diagnosis from allergy expert Dr Carre.

Now she is able to continue with her exercise, such as training for The Great North Run.

Vicki says that knowing she can enjoy one of her favourite pastimes without being worried about another attack is life-changing.

She said: "I walked into the clinic that day and Dr Carre was just as excited as me to tell me and finally relieve me of those anxieties that I had. It was just a breath of fresh air.

"I actually walked out of the allergy clinic and forgot to pay I was so excited. I was jumping with joy. I knew what was causing it and then I had the tools to be able to deal with it.

"I can go out the door and I've got no anxieties. I have to carry my epipen. I've got to take an antihistamine every single day just in case, but I feel free."

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