Are You Suffering From Chronic Urticaria? You’re Not Alone
“Up to 20% of the population experience urticaria at some point in their lives”, states the American Academy of Dermatology. Dermatographism is the most common type, and it affects 2-5% of the population. Urticaria is caused by swelling of the upper dermis. If the symptoms of urticaria last longer than six weeks, it is classified as chronic. I have been suffering from chronic urticaria for about six years. I am sharing my story in hopes of helping someone who is suffering from the same condition. You are not alone! It does get better.My first urticaria symptoms appeared in 2011 in the midst of a perfectly hot summer. I developed itchy bumps on my thighs that disappear awhile after. A doctor diagnosed me with Dermographism. I left her office that day with a prescription for hydroxyzine pills 25 mg which to be taken daily; this changed everything (and not necessarily for the best). The pills worked but left me drowsy and in a sedative state. Not to mention, the withdrawal symptoms were agonizing. The hives started occurring regularly. I could not sleep, I felt miserable, I felt like I have a drug addiction and I felt alone.In 2013, a different doctor recommended an off-the-counter medication called Aerius (desloratadine), the non-drowsy kind. I went home with my overly priced, non-covered by my health insurance pills accepting the fact that I might have to take anti-histamines for the rest of my life. To my surprise, the pills worked. They did not cause any apparent side effects, and I would go on for a month, two, sometimes more without having to take a pill. I tried to use other generic drugs that had similar components and were cheaper, but it was not the same.As of today, I still suffer from urticaria. Since I have no access to Aerius, I am on cetirizine 10 mg after I quit using Atrax (hydroxyzine) - which left me like a complete zombie. Urticaria can be challenging to deal with. So here are some tips on how to cope with your chronic urticaria.
How to Cope with Chronic Urticaria?
Talk to a medical professional: If you have not seen a physician yet, it should be your first step. Take pictures of your skin when the hives appear and bring them to your doctor while you explain your symptoms. If you do not have access to a doctor, bring this issue up to your nearest pharmacist, they may give you an off-the-counter medication to relieve your symptoms until you can see a physician. If you were diagnosed but didn't receive the proper care, talk to your doctor so they can suggest another treatment, or see a different specialist. Remember that urticaria comes in many forms and people respond differently to medications.Know your triggers: Urticaria has many forms, know which one you are suffering, that will help you be prepared. When do your symptoms appear? What were you doing? How were you feeling? Where were you? What did you eat differently? Also, pay attention to the areas where your physical symptoms appeared and if there were any internal changes that you noticed. How long did your symptoms last for? If you were cold and hives appeared, did they disappear once you were warm again? This information is crucial for your doctor because it can help your diagnosis and treatment. Knowing your triggers will also help you control and manage your urticaria better.Don’t lose hope: I have been there, I know how it feels. Don’t let urticaria control your life and ruin your experiences. Go out, have fun and live. The medication that works for me might not work for you. There are many prescriptions and off-the-counter medications for urticaria; you just have to find the right one. Keep track of the medicines you have taken and study if they worked or not, when did they stop working, what side effect did they cause and bring it up to your doctor. There are medications with the same chemical components, but with different manufacturers causing their result to differ. In my case, Benadryl (diphenhydramine HCl) didn't work, Claritin (loratadine) stayed one day in my symptoms before I broke out in hives again and it left me drowsy, a generic pack of cetirizine also stayed one day in my system.Let people know: I know this condition can make you self-conscious. In public, I was often afraid that people were judging for being itchy and having wheals all over my arms. However, with time I learned to be more comfortable with myself. Urticaria especially the chronic kind, is a part of me whether I like it or not. Speak to family members and close friends about the issue, so they understand whenever you have a hive attack. I have told my boss, and my co-workers about my condition and they were very supportive.Break out of the itch-scratch cycle: This is the most challenging step, but it is the most rewarding. When a hive attack comes, your body heats, the blood rushes to the top of the skin, histamine accumulates, and you break out in itchy burning hives. When this happens, assess the situation because it can go two ways: it can be a passing attack that lasts for an hour, or it is going to keep coming back several times in the same day, in that case, you need your medication. Keep telling yourself it is okay. Tell your skin that you will not harm it because it is not your skin’s fault. Having conversations with your skin will calm you down and help you not scratch. If the itch lasts hours and it is unbearable, see a doctor immediately. Always keep your nails short to not damage your skin if you scratch.Feel free to share your urticaria story in the comments below. For more health topics, click here.