Saturday, November 12, 2011

Surprise! You've Got Hives! A Beauty Blogger's Nightmare.

Note: The following post is meant to be more of an experience post rather than advice. Please contact your doctor if you encounter a similar issue.

On Thursday October 20th, I went to sleep slightly agitated. I had a couple of very itch spots that looked like bug bites around my waist band area. I thought perhaps my new Victoria's Secret jeans (which I had washed twice) were irritating me. I moisturized myself and did my best to sleep. The next morning I awoke to giant welts all over my body. They were ugly, horrifying, itchy lumps of redness and I had no idea what to do.  Sure I've had little ones before, caused by dryness, irritation from an allergy, too much kitty cuddling... but I've never had a full blown attack like this!

Here is a wrist shot of what was all over my body (Warning, it's not fun):

Thankfully my face was spared. But like any beauty blogger with an anxiety disorder would do, I panicked. Just in case this ever happens to you, I want to make sure you don't panic too  - it doesn't help anything if you do. The more you panic, the worse the hives can get!

So I did what any irrational, hypochondriac would do: I called my doctors. Multiple.

By 8 am I had a call into my dermatologist AND my allergist. It was a race as to who could see me first. My allergist won out, but just barely. They got me in by 10 am and by 11 am I was on the road to recovery. While they couldn't tell me exactly what caused the problem I did learn some things from them:
  • What I had going on was most certainly an allergic reaction. 
  • Hives are not caused by stress, though stress can make them much worse. 
  • They usually go away on their own after a few days (not in all cases). 
  • They tend to show up the most where you have pressure. (I sit on my butt all day so my legs and rear got the worst of my attack). 
Here is what I did to treat my Hives:

The Medical Stuff
Certainly, this needs to be tailored to you with your doctor. But I'll tell you what my doctor recommended to me to try to calm the allergic reaction.

  • Yee Ole Shot In The Butt - Yup, I got a steroid shot in the rear. The steroid is meant to take down the swelling. This is the only doctor-administrated/prescription treatment I received. Everything else was OTC.
  • Take Zyrtec in the evening, Claritin in the morning - I had been taking Zyrtec in the morning. It's my allergy medicine of choice. I didn't know you could double up. Don't do it unless you talk to your doctor. But obviously, the Claritin will keep you up while the Zyrtec can cause drowsiness.
  • Take Your Heart Burn Meds - Zantac specifically. An off label use apparently is a histamine blocker. It works differently from regular antihistamines, blocking H2 receptors particularly in the stomach (seriously, look it up - do a Google search). It's not an antihistamine, but it does affect histamine in the body in another way. Hurray for off-label uses! I took mine twice a day.
  • Benedryl to the rescue! - Hands down I think this is the best "quick relief" stuff ever. It'll make you drowsy, but the itching itself stopped whenever I took some tablets. For the first day I was taking this every 4 hours like clockwork. 
  • Steroids Creams - A simple 1% cortisone cream can help relieve the itching. I spot treated my worst areas. 
Taking Care of Your Skin -The Non-Medical Stuff
While you're waiting for your immune system to stop freaking out, you still have to manage what's going on. In other words, you need to make yourself comfortable.
  • Pamper your skin with breakfast foods - Ok, not really, but Colloidal Oatmeal is awesome at soothing the skin. Aveeno's Soothing Bath Treatment was recommended by my doctor. You start running your hot water in your tub and pour a packet in while the water is running. It feels AWESOME!!! I don't like to take baths but I'll make an acceptation for this. Note that you will probably need to clean your tub of clumps of oatmeal when you're done. 
  • Ditch the Scented Body Washes - Sometimes these can just aggravate your skin further when it's already freaking out. I chose Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash. It doesn't smell great but it is super moisturizing. I'm still using it to keep my skin hydrated even after the skin-freak-out ended. 
  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!!! - While you're ingesting a lot of antihistamines, everything's going to dry out. So drink your water and liberally apply moisturizer. Plus this might help a bit with itching of the hives. I set aside my luxurious treatments and went for another Aveeno product, Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion. I didn't like the smell, and I don't think it was more soothing than the bath, but it did help.
  • The Rubbing Alcohol Spot Treatment - My mother suggested this to me. She used to dab it on hives my father would get. Believe it or not, this did help a bit, though I don't know that there's any scientific proof that it works. It's like Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (or WD40 for my grandfather). It fixes everything! 
Once dosed and pampered I slept my way through the weekend. Benedryl and a shot in the butt will do that to you regardless, but I was clearly exhausted too. By Sunday, my skin was back to it's normal self. My legs had scars from where I had unconsciously been scratching. Those will take time to heal - your legs, I am told by my dermatologist, heal more slowly than anywhere else. But everywhere else looked just as good (if not better) than before the major freak out.

I sincerely hope you never have to go through something like this. But if you do, my strong suggestion is to talk with your Doctor first and then indulge in some Aveeno baths. Hopefully, like me, you'll be better in a matter of days.