Hi SparkFriends! I wanted to write this blog to explain why I haven’t been as active on the website this month. I’ve spent all my free time trying to learn as much as I can about a new medical condition I’ve developed. It’s called cold urticaria, which basically means I get red, itchy hives when my skin is exposed to cool temperatures, like an allergic reaction to the cold.
It happened the first time when I was on a walk wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and it was probably 62 degrees...certainly not cold, and in fact felt good to me, because I usually feel too warm. Anyway, both arms became covered with hives. I had more incidents over the next two weeks. I got hives on my stomach and legs after getting out of the shower. I got hives again on bare arms after being outside only 10 minutes, again in about 62 degrees. And then I got hives on the tops and bottoms of my feet, while wearing socks and slippers, while I was in my basement office one day (after working for several hours). It was cool down there, probably lower 60s. It's annoying and more than a bit scary, because when I get them they are incredibly itchy. Once I get to a warm place again, they go away in about 30 minutes.
So, I went to the doctor. My regular doctor wasn’t available, so I saw another doctor in their practice. I was advised to take a daily, nonsedating 24-hour antihistamine, and I started on Allegra. Knock wood, I haven't had any hives since. If I go outside, I bundle up, and I put a space heater in my basement office. I’m supposed to carry Benadryl and Pepcid with me, in case it ever turns into an anaphylactic reaction (which it hasn’t to this point, thank goodness…if it ever does, I’m sure they will prescribe an Epipen, but I don’t have those symptoms at this point). I've even stopped eating or drinking cold things, like ice cream or ice in drinks, just in case that would set off something.
Since this happened at 62 degrees, I worry what will happen when winter gets here. I live in an area that gets snow and bad weather, and drops below zero at times. I was even worried in the past week when the temperatures got down in the low 50s and I had to go outside. I bundled up, and didn’t stay outside longer than necessary, and I did okay, so that made me feel a little better, and hopeful that the Allegra is doing some good. In case you are wondering, I shouldn’t take Benadryl all the time because it makes you tired, but I should take it if I have a bad attack. And also the doctor explained that Pepcid also works as an antihistamine, so that’s why I should carry it with me in case I have a bad reaction some day.
I’ve read everything I can on-line about this. It’s a bit unusual to develop it at my age, but it does happen. It can be a sign of some underlying medical problems, like thyroid disease, and I am scheduled to back to the doctor’s office for blood tests next week to check thyroid, B12, and some other things. Then I see my regular doctor in a little over two weeks to discuss the lab results with him.
There are some helpful on-line forums for people with various types of urticaria. Some people get it from hot weather or exercise, or like me with cold weather. It is an allergic-type reaction, where your body releases histamine as if you are allergic to something, like a bee sting. I’ve been reading about low histamine diets, which has been interesting. Histamine is natural in a lot of food, and is higher in fermented foods. I had eaten sauerkraut the day I had my first incident of hives. I’m not saying that caused it (I’ve had it in the past with no problem), but maybe that day it, combined with whatever else is going on in my body, pushed me over the edge. I also learned that tomatoes, spinach, and yogurt can be high in histamine, so I’ve stopped eating those for now. I’m not sure what else I can do at the moment, until I learn more from the blood tests.
From what I’ve read, for some people cold urticaria lasts a few months or years and goes away, and in others it doesn't, but I'm hoping it goes away eventually. Really the “easiest” answer would be if it is found to be related to a thyroid problem, and then I could fix that and the problem would resolve. Some people never get an answer as to why it happens, and just have to learn to live with it and cope day to day.
Anyway, it’s been a tough month. It’s hard not to worry about what may be causing this and what the future may bring. I hesitate to go for long walks outside now, and walking this time of year is usually my favorite form of exercise. Each day I look at the weather and the temperatures, and figure out how long I need to be outside to run errands, and plan to do everything during the warmest part of the day. The unknown surrounding it all is stressful.
Trying to look on the bright side, I haven’t had hives since starting the Allegra, so hopefully that is controlling them. And I’ve been maintaining my weight, and not gaining, even though I haven’t been able to exercise outside.
I’ll update this blog or write an updated blog when I find out any new information. Thanks for reading!