Living with Urticaria: Testimonial on Chronic Hives

About three years ago, I developed what is commonly known as chronic hives (urticaria). Chronic hives are defined as hives that persist for longer than six weeks, and at that point, they may last anywhere from a few months to several years. Each individual is different. I freaked out when i started to get them because I didn’t know what they were, and once I figured out that they were chronic hives, I still had a lot of trouble finding detailed information online. Was there something wrong with me? Does this mean I have a weak immune system? Does this mean I’ll have to live with this for the rest of my life? That thought was too much to bear. I needed to figure how to manage it and find out if there is anything out there that may make them go away.

Every website gave me the same information. There is no known cause or cure for chronic hives. The hives can last anywhere from hours to days. Sometimes they go away forever and sometimes they come back after several years. I searched for stories from other people who suffered from chronic hives and did a lot of research on the typical medications that people used.

I also went to my general physician who put me on a steroid called Prednisone. I only had a perscription for about a week’s worth of it. It seemed to be working, but I read online that steroids lead to serious problems if you stay on them too long (no surprise there) and a lot of people wrote testimonials that said the hives came back about a week after going off of them. I did not find one testemonial that ended with a positive review of using Prednisone to treat hives. So I did not get my hopes up that my hives were cured, and it turned out that I was no exception to the rule. The hives came back about a week later. So, if your doctor puts you on Prednisone for chronic hives, you should know that it is most likely a temporary release and not a cure and that it is dangerous to stay on them too long. Try to find another way of managing the hives.

At first, my hives started out in small numbers while I was sleeping. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with five or six itchy bumps that looked like mosquito bites, and they were either on my belly or on the back of my thighs. It usually depended on whether I was sleeping on my belly or on my back. The first time it happened, I went back to sleep and when I woke up, they were completely gone. I thought I must have dreamed that they were there.

But it started to occur more often and I could not figure out why on earth these bites kept disappearing so quickly! Then they started to occur on my back and thighs during random times during the day. I got a horrible attack all at once that made it very clear to me that this was not going to be something little that would just go away on its own. My entire back looked like a web of raised red welts. It spread to my arms and legs, my fingers puffed up (which was especially painful) and my cheeks, neck and lips swelled up. I also felt very hot, so I drank a ton of water and tried to wait it out. They did start to go down, but then I discovered online that if your lips or throat start to swell up, you should go to the emergency room because it could severly obstruct your breathing. I wasn’t taking any chances.

By the time I got the emergency room, the hives were completely gone. They gave me a perscription to get any EpiPen, which is an autoinjector of epinephrine so that if I am ever in a situation where I can’t breathe from swelling in my mouth and throat, it will make the swelling go down. Yikes!

After the first couple of weeks, the hives never got so bad that my body looked like a swollen web of welts and my lips and throat never swelled again, but I did get many itchy hives on my arms, thighs and chest every night. The good news was that they started to happen at predictable times (pretty much late at night) and whenever I did things that were hard on my body like smoking and drinking alcohol. I was also paying attention to my moods and body so that I could tell when they were going to occur before they actually started. Unfortunatly, right before i’d break out, I would get extremely irritable. I felt out of control with my moods sometimes. Also, my nose would start to slightly start running and I’d occasionally get hot flashes.

I tried various antihistamines and found that Benydryl worked the best. Depending on the kind, they could make me really groggy, but the non-drowsy ones worked pretty well. I would take them right away when I’d notice the hives beginning or I’d take some as a preventative measure if I had to be out and about at night. Benydryl helped a lot to give me a peace of mind about the hives and to feel like I has some control over the situation, but it is still not a good idea to be taking too many drugs. Also, if I did get hives, I found that drinking a lot of water really helped to keep them from getting worse and would help to slowly start to bring them down. I am not sure why, but keeping myself hydrated and keeping my body temperature normal seemed to restore the balance in my body.

After about two months of this, I went to an acupuncturist in Chicago who also gave me some Chinese herbs to drink. I do not recall exactly how many treatments I had with him or how long I drank the teas, but I feel like it was only two or three treatments and maybe a month or two of drinking the herbs. In any case, after about three to four months of having nightly hives, they started to go away. The only things I was doing at the time that they went away was going to acupuncture, drinking the Chinese herbs, drinking a lot of water, and taking daily vitamin supplements. And of course, I did not smoke or drink alcohol or deprive myself of sleep. I just tried to keep myself as healthy as possible.

I still have an occasional hive appear every now and then, usually around my period or when I am really dehydrated, but basically, the chronic hives are all gone. I think that generally building up your immune system and staying hydrated helps a lot. And if you are open minded and can find a decent practitioner, I reccommend acupuncture and Chinese herbs. They certaintly did not hurt me and I do believe that they are what helped restore balance to my body.

Pay attention to your moods, habits and monthly cycles to see if you can discover any patterns to the hives. I believe the hives occur when certain parts of your body get extremely out of balance. It is like you have to gently nurture yourself back to health. To chronic hive sufferes, I hope this helps and I wish you the best of health.

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