Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I HATE Summer -- Living With Cholinergic Urticaria

I normally try to avoid complaining on social media or on my blogs but this is one topic I'm going to vent about and rant so you know exactly how I feel. I don't hate summer for no reason, trust me. Its not the tiny outfits that are way too small on the wrong body type or the bright happy colors that make my inner goth girl cringe. No, its something much less superficial than that.

Take me to the beach in summer temps and I will disintegrate.

 My physiology just cannot handle it! If I am in temperature above 74 degrees I immediately turn into a moody bitch (for lack of a better word) whom you might assume is on the rag. I wish I could attribute my immediate anger and discomfort to a woman's right to extreme emotion or psychotic behavior...but no.

I have chonilergic urticaria. One of my allergists diagnosed me over a decade ago after scratching my arm with the edge of an index card and observing my itchy, sweaty symptoms. Within about a minute or two, my arm started turning red and bumping up along that line and surrounding it, almost like tiny, itchy goosebumps.

To manage my urticaria symptoms of getting itchy hives and "wheals" from heat, stress or a prior food allergy reaction I have to be on 24-hr Allegra during the day and Zyrtec at night. I have been hibernating in air conditioning and reveling in Netflix when I have free time.

Meet my friends. They live in my closet.

I've noticed that caffeine aggravates urticaria symptoms, so if I'm having "waves" of symptoms I'll up my water intake and down like two huge glasses of water with a pinch of celtic sea salt (to help my body retain the water...not to mention the fact that salt is a natural antihistamine so I add it to everything). Celtic sea salt contains all 92 trace minerals your body needs and has been found to actually LOWER blood pressure in comparison to regular table salt. As with anything, though, don't go overboard and talk to your doctor before increasing your sea salt intake.

Having cholinergic urticaria is a burden to others because you're constantly freezing them out. (Psst! To counteract this, surprise them with warm, super-comfy clothes, blankets or hats!) I use my car's A/C for about nine months of the year.

Your physiological internal temperature just might not be the same as others. Your body naturally heats up during any histamine reaction...which aggravates symptoms further. Maybe even your significant other's body heat in bed makes your symptoms appear. I notice skin to skin contact during sleep makes me sweat and in turn, itch. For this reason, I wear mainly cotton and mainly long sleeves. I can't wear shorts during the summer because if I sit on a solid chair or leather, the backs of my thighs break out in hives and itch. Long pants and long skirts are staples in my wardrobe.

I never go to the beach if its above 78 degrees. My heart beats way too fast from the heat. I get exhausted and honestly being in a heated environment is just pure torture. I also have vasovagal syncope (fainting) from heat and failed the "tilt test" at the heart doctor which proves that heat and I don't mix.

Its also a fact that during an allergic reaction, your body temperature heats up. So when I was younger, my family always kept a fan directly aimed at me, since for them, the temperature was comfortable. I have yet to invest in good cooling bed supplies like a good cooling pillow or Cooling Sleepwear but for now I stay in the A/C and keep my environmental allergens at bay.

For this reason, autumn can't come soon enough. Its not just the changing colors of the leaves that stirs my senses but also that cool, brisk breeze that visits towards the end of September and makes the outdoors feel like the air conditioning turned on.

My favorite time of year...always takes my breath away.

Its the spicy, cinnamon-scented festivals with candied apples that I can't eat because of my food allergies and severe gluten intolerance which you can read about here (but then I get inspired to run home and lookup nut-free soy-free gluten-free candy apple recipes on Pinterest). I still watch others eating everything I can't and although I feel sad, I smile knowing my allergen-free and gluten-free recipe at home will taste a thousand times better.

Here is a candied apple recipe I found. Make sure to use USDA Certified Organic apples so that you avoid the soy/GMO/pesticide wax on regular apples. Also, according to a tip on Amazon, add the cinnamon oil after the sugar liquid is already slightly cool so that it mixes properly and you don't get 'spicy' spots and others with no cinnamon.

Here is a link to high-quality Cinnamon Oil if you need it.

Its all the warm apple and cobbler recipes that we all will exchange and swear by. Its the haunted happenings that we make plans for in September to make October a full month of Halloween! You can bet if I can't eat ANY candy in the grocery stores, I'm making a bunch for the entire SEASON!

Stay tuned for my next few blogs which will include my most recent anaphylaxis experience as well as 'Self-Discipline and Special Diets'!



  1. That sounds like no fun at all! My dad is dealing with chronic hives and they have yet to pin point all the causes. I never thought about heat, but I think I will definitely mention that to him!

    1. Julie,

      Yes, definitely! Either heat or cold could do it, along with stress. Which is a catch-22 because we get stressed out just from the discomfort of itching, so its a vicious cycle. Find out if he's taking a good multivitamin supplement because I've also noticed B vitamins help to alleviate the stress caused and amplified by urticaria and eczema. As with any vitamin, don't overdo it as too much can be bad. Also, I notice that anything that lowers the immune system will aggravate symptoms. So tell him to def lower his sugar and caffeine intake and def take an omega-3 supplement or eat more oily fish and avocados to help soften the skin. Missed you, girl...thanks for stopping by!

  2. Ok so I just found your site today. I am so happy. I have so many of the same symptoms as you as far as the hives and food and enviromental allergies. I have been so frustrated for about two years now since this started out of the blue. I don't know anyone else going through any of this so this blog is a light in a dark tunnel! Friends and family are supportive, but they just have no way of understanding what it's like. In need of a support system. Lots of reading to catch up on here!

  3. Anonymous,

    I know exactly how that is. Nobody understands. That's part of the reason I created this. The only people I felt understood I had found on Twitter, yet you don't really connect with them the way you can through reading personal experiences through a blog. I wish I had support growing up...it definitely wasn't easy.

    I'm so thankful, though, now...that technology has connected so many of us in ways I would have never comprehended.

    Add me on Twitter: @Mayashappyplace

    Also, join the Soy Allergy Board on Facebook. I'm active on there as well. A great big welcome to you and all the others who discover my writing =)You are DEFINITELY not alone.

  4. I have what I believe is cholinergic urticaria caused by a mild legume allergy, which was probably initiated by years of eating isolated soy protein on a daily basis. I believe that my skin becomes itchy when I sweat because I am sweating out the allergens, but that's just a hypothesis. I try to exercise as much as possible so that I can sweat out as much of the bad stuff as possible. It only takes 10 minutes of hard activity for my itchiness to go away.

  5. Alex,

    Sorry I took so long to see this but that's interesting! Usually I get itchy from the hard exercise--in your case, my hypothesis is you might be sweating out toxins! Your immune system is definitely boosted when you workout, so that's probably why you feel much better! Usually if you are sweating out an allergen from something you ate, you will get severe hives or even anaphylaxis. You will also get extremely fatigued. My cousin used to get hives and stomach problems whenever he ate soy protein isolate so he began avoiding it. Its awesome that you are paying attention to your body and what you put in it; I believe that is the most important thing when you notice a sensitivity! Thank you for stopping by!

  6. Hello just wanted to say I suffer from cholinergic urticaria and I know what the pain of that is like. I am also training to be a pharmacist so I know about all the drugs available and most are useless so I'm moving to complimentary medicines such as herbal chinese. Im wondering if you anyone has heard anything about this.

  7. Wasim,

    Yes, in my experience drugs haven't really worked. What has worked is avoidance of every allergen I know I'm allergic to. Although this strict diet adherence is annoying, it keeps me from having the minor reactions which are usually worsened from the heat urticaria. I haven't looked into Chinese medicine as of yet, only staying cool and keeping my stress levels down through meditation techniques (which is most effective thus far, along with my daily Allegra and cetirizine) but are there any Chinese herbs you know of that I should look into?

    Thank you for stopping by! =)

  8. I have tried one, something called dried trifoliate orange, for a couple of people with cholinergic urticaria its been amazing. I have tried it and it works on my face but my chest is still bad. I really would like to meet somebody else who has used it to compare the effects.
    Thanks for the reply

  9. Wasim,

    That sounds awesome thank you so much for coming back and letting me know. I will def look into that and post about it if I have good results once the weather warms up here in NY.

    Have a great weekend!

  10. I had no idea that the symptoms from urticaria could be so debilitating. I'm sorry to hear that you've had to deal with this issue for so long! My wife has some major allergy problems (not urticaria) and she hates the spring/summer season too. It just makes it almost impossible for her to function normally. Hang in there, I hope it gets easier for you! http://www.nwasthma.com/patient-education/hives-and-swelling