By Kayla (Chronic Hive Sufferer)
Can you imagine living with a debilitating disease that can strike at any moment for no reason, leaving you covered with a painful, itchy rash and swelling so serious that it forces you to go to the hospital?
This is what I have lived with every day of my life since the age of 6 – I live with CIU, also known as Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria. This disease has caused me emotional and physical pain, forced me to drop out of university, and causes me to always be fatigued and often in need of urgent medical treatment.
A Life With Chronic Hives
Living with CIU, I always have to plan my life around my disease and I must always be prepared for the tingling or burning sensation, a stress rash, and other symptoms. It is difficult to live day to day with CIU because I cannot prevent the disfiguring reaction from occurring, as it is not an allergic reaction (like in contact dermatitis) which is usually what happens when a skin rash appears. I can only take steps to eliminate triggers that make my existing skin conditions worse.
Personally, I eat a very clean diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, and try to keep as active as my hives will permit me. I try to avoid certain foods such as strawberries, large amounts of citrus, gluten, dairy, and nut products.
Stress and heat are large factors in my reactions as well, so I try to limit my exposure to the sun or at least take breaks in air–conditioned rooms in between sun exposure, while of course wearing LOTS of sunscreens. Dealing with sunburn while having an outbreak is unbearable, very dangerous, and required me to be hospitalized in the past.
Emotional stress and anxiety are very hard to avoid, it is a vicious cycle in the life of a CIU patient. The anxiety hives cause me to miss work or school, make relationships difficult, and isolate me, causing MORE stress which makes the hives worse.
I try my best to take 5 minutes each day to do some deep breathing to calm my nerves and prevent the stress rash from appearing. I also find yoga really helpful because it is physical activity and it is great for the soul, body, and mind.
CIU can really affect a patient emotionally and make them feel isolated, so if you are a patient, I encourage you to be proactive and get in touch with other patients, seek medical advice and psychological help, as it has helped me a significant amount.
It is crucial to keep in mind that finding a good mental health professional is equally important as finding a medical doctor – they can teach you stress management techniques that can be very helpful in fighting stress rashes.
Early-Stage Anxiety Stress Hives
I consider stress rashes to be the most surprising for others and most difficult to deal with in everyday life. I mean, it is not that hard to control what I eat or drink, or to protect myself from the sun, but it is really difficult to manage stress effectively, as the circumstances causing it are not always dependent on me – they are usually external. But how do stress hives appear in the first place?
All the common anxiety symptoms are caused by the same biological processes. It means that the exact same mechanisms in our body are responsible for rapid heart beating or fast breathing and for a stress rash.
It is all caused by adrenaline, the hormone that intensifies our heart rate and blood pressure, at the same time decreasing the blood flow to the skin. Apart from it, histamine is released, and it can be responsible for making our skin itchy and inflamed. Other mechanisms that can contribute to stress hives are also increased sweating and higher body temperature.
One good thing about hives caused by psychological stress is that even if they emerge quickly, they also disappear quickly as well. They should disappear after 30-60 minutes, and if you want to ease the itchiness or even pain they may cause, you can use a cold compress or an ice pack, for example.
Other techniques that can help in dealing with early-stage anxiety stress hives are:
- using over-the-counter topical ointment against itchiness
- trying to keep standard body temperature
- wearing loose-fitting clothes
- applying an over-the-counter oral antihistamine (as the name suggests, it limits the impact of histamine on our body)
However, if the stress hives dissipate, it is essential to search for medical treatment as in some cases, they can even progress into more severe rashes, like shingles if you’ve had chickenpox previously. They develop because of the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus which is also responsible for herpes simplex and chickenpox. It tends to appear as a result of increased stress and can stem from physical or emotional trauma (such as an illness, an accident, or losing a loved one, for instance).
It is advised to take action before stress hives turn into shingles as they may not only cause a lot of pain but also develop into postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
Relief for Chronic Hives
ILW Recommends: For chronic itchy skin and stress hives or other rashes, think about healing from within starting with an elimination diet to determine if food is triggering your skin symptoms.
For quick relief, try this aloe spray which will relieve symptoms – it will soothe the itch and the need to scratch.
You can also try at-home acupressure – there are some points on the body that can provide wonderful, fast stress rash relief!
The Bottom Line
As you can see, a chronic hive life can be very difficult – it demands watching out for what you eat and drink, how you dress, what your exposure to the sun is, and how you manage stress. It is always best to visit a doctor if you notice even mild symptoms so that they can guide you accurately and hopefully, prevent this syndrome from developing and getting much worse to handle. Stay healthy!