Caitlin McComish, a 20-year-old soccer player from Ohio, may find her dreams of success on the playing field come to an end, because of an adverse reaction to her own sweat.
McComish fall into anaphylactic shock last year during a run. On examination, doctors found she suffers from cholinergic urticaria, a rare disease causing her skin to break out in hives after any strenuous activity. While on the field, the allergic reaction can become so bad that McComish's throat swells, making breathing difficult.
The University of Toledo student was running in her hometown of White House, Ohio, when she started to experience difficulty breathing and collapsed in shock.
McComish had experienced milder attacks when she was young. These came on a few times a year, and doctors attributed her symptoms to food allergies. None of them were as severe as the attack which came in 2013, which came on much more quickly than childhood experiences.
"I was right in front of my grade school. I had a really upset stomach, tingly palms and the bottoms of my feet. I was really, really itchy. It hit me like uncomfortable heat waves. Then I could feel the swelling in my throat, and my tongue got tingly and thicker," McComish told ABC News.
Cholinergic urticaria is not technically an allergy, but is technically a skin condition that produces hives in the presence of sweat. The condition is quite common, affected ten percent of high school students to some degree, according to David Lang, McComish's doctor. In severe cases, like that of the young Ohio athlete, reactions could be fatal.
"It's a condition where people have itching and swelling and the major issue is heat or sweat as a provoking factor. It's quite common in the general population, but in most cases, it's mild and patients either aren't aware of it or manage their symptoms well," Lang told reporters.
She is already disqualified from playing in the NCAA because she suffers from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (P.O.T.S.), a circulatory condition affecting people as they move from one position to another.
The player tried to play several times after that severe attack, in order to support her team. Ambulances were called every few weeks, as attacks overwhelmed the young woman.
McComish tried using ice pack before and after workouts, and also wore a cooling vest, in an attempt to keep her condition under control. The young athlete is currently keeping her condition under control through a series of injections of Xolair, an asthma medicine.
The young athlete at the center of a medical dilemma is, appropriately, a nursing student.