Photo taken by Sara Howe

Lots of Hives, No Bees

Gaining new insight and appreciation for anyone who has experienced hives, a month ago I endured terrible hives for the very first time.

Not knowing exactly what caused them, I reevaluated everything I did that day to identify anything out of the ordinary. Fortunately I didn’t eat anything high in nickel. My work did caused me an unusually high amount of stress that day. In an attempt to shrug off the day, I went grocery shopping at Costco that evening, as I love buying their organic chicken and beef. During my visit, I sampled a new type of lotion on my hands. Unsure if either the additional stress or the new lotion caused my hives; within an hour of leaving Costco I had hives all over my feet.

Shocked to see how red my feet were when I took off my socks, I literally couldn’t stop itching them. The itching was so terrible it woke me up throughout the night. By morning the next day, the red rash had progressed to splotchy red spots, welts and bumps all over my legs, including behind and on my knees. Luckily, I was able to set up an appointment with my dermatologist the following Tuesday. However, the entire weekend I experienced terrible pain when I walked or stood. It felt like I was continually being stung by a bee.

Unrelenting, the hives progressed all over my body. They had spread to stomach, over more of my legs and knees and even on my neck and head. It truly was terrifying. Since nothing I did worked and it was only Saturday, I spoke to my friend who is a nurse to find out what I could do to remedy my symptoms before my dermatology appointment. She recommended taking 50mg of Benadryl. Immediately I went to Walgreens and began taking it that night, as it immediately makes me fall asleep. Taking the Benadryl allowed me to sleep better, but my hives continued to rage out of control.

Finally I met with my dermatologist on Tuesday who diagnosed me with urticaria or the medical term for hives. My appointment was 5 days after I originally experienced symptoms. He said that hives are our body’s response to an allergen. Many people react to an unknown allergen and he noted that about only 20% of the time physicians can identify the reason why someone breaks out in hives. Apparently hives can also be short or long term, ranging from a couple hours to several days or even weeks if they’re chronic.

My dermatologist suggested I take an antihistamine, as when you have hives typically your body produces an increased amount of histamines to fight the allergen. Benadrly is an antihistamine that causes drowsiness, so it can be difficult to take during the day. My dermatologist suggested I take something with loratadine as the active drug. He recommended 10 mg of non-drowsy Claritin (not Clariton-D) or Allertec, both of which use loratadine as the active ingredient which is an antihistamine. He said that I could take up to 40 mg of loratadine in a day should I experience severe hives again. If that happens again, my dermatologist recommended I tapper down from the higher dose of loratadine, but if I don’t have hive symptoms, I ought only take 10mg of loratadine a day. I also found that using ice on the more painful areas helped immensely.

Medical disclosure: I’m not a doctor and I only write about my personal experiences. I don’t know if my doctor’s recommendations to take 10-40mg of loratadine is what’s best for you. It’s always recommended that you consult your own physician.

I’m lucky to have a great dermatologist, which isn’t the case for all of you. Receiving an accurate diagnosis in regards to your nickel food allergy or eczema can be challenging. I still highly recommend if you have hives to seek medical advice on whether or not an antihistamine or another treatment can help resolve your hives.