The First Signs of Urticaria or Hives
What Causes Hives?
It's often impossible to find out the exact cause as to why hives have formed. They can be a reaction to medication, insect stings, certain food, allergic reactions, sunlight, stress and numerous other factors. There are several different types of hives from acute, or lasting less than six weeks, to chronic, meaning they last indefinitely or pay a return visit.
One sweltering Texas afternoon, I stepped out on the back porch for a moment closing the door behind me. My dogs stayed inside, while I shook out a rug and turned to come back inside. One of them jumped up to see me at the window and when he got down, his paw hit the deadbolt. The lever turned and locked me out.
Through the window, I saw both dogs waiting by the door eager for my return. After a few minutes, they began to whine hoping I'd let them out with me. They didn't understand that I wanted inside as much as they wanted out.
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of fingernails scratching across skin. To my great distress it was me doing the scratching. I jumped up, ran to a mirror and saw a bumpy, red rash had formed across my upper torso. Worse, was the insatiable, mind-numbing itch that came along with it.
By noon, the rash covered my abdomen and was creeping up the back of my scalp. The itching was so intense I couldn't stop scratching, although it wasn't helping at all, just making matters worse. Red welts had started to appear everywhere.
I called my doctor as soon as their office opened, but was out of luck. He was out of the office until Monday. Next, I searched search on line for pictures that matched my symptoms. Several articles later, I still had no answers so I headed to the drug store. The pharmacist kindly steered me away from one lotion and recommended an over-the-counter itch stopping cream.
By the next morning, with the tube of Benadryl nearly gone, I was rapidly becoming a basket case from the constant itching, scratching, and lack of sleep. I worried whether I had measles, bed bugs or something possibly worse. I tried to imagine what had caused this. Perhaps I'd walked through a field of poison ivy or fallen into a vat of itching powder. I had done neither.
Around noon, I was beyond the limits of my endurance so I headed into town scratching my way across the miles. When I reached the local pharmacy I stopped to take my blood pressure at the free machine near the Minute Clinic.
Going to the Clinic
I filled out the paperwork and waited for my turn at the clinic, trying not to embarrass myself by scratching like a dog with ten thousand fleas. Soon enough, the mysterious door opened and I was ushered into a small room. There, a Nurse took my blood pressure, which was elevated. and my temperature which was slightly above normal.
I explained my symptoms and watched for her reaction when I revealed a patchwork of red itchy bumps now enhanced by my long and dutiful fingernails. True to her call to professionalism, she didn't flinch. She immediately referred me to the care facility across the street explaining that I needed a cortisone shot which she could not administer. She didn't charge me for the visit which took about two minutes.
Not You Again
At the clinic across the highway there was more paperwork to fill out. While detailing my medical history, a child emerged from behind the closed door. His wailing and tears told a sordid story. The doctor, who abruptly spat out information to the child's mother, was the same guy who'd given me a flu shot a year earlier. After his rough ten-second injection that left a huge welt on my arm for two weeks, I promised myself never to go back there. The name on the building was different, but the same people were clearly still there. I asked for my forms back, ripped them to shreds, got my ID cards back and left.
I walked back across the highway to CVS, where my ride waited outside the closed door of the Minute Clinic. We returned home no closer to a solution, while I scratched madly on more body parts.
Care Now Facility
Fast forward to Sunday morning after another sleepless night, by which time I was at the point of hysteria, unable to eat or sleep for two days. The itching had intensified to the point where I felt like screaming. I had hoped to hold out and wait for my family physician to return on Monday, but there was absolutely no way I could wait another twenty-four hours.
After more web searching, I found a Care Now Facility a mere sixteen miles away and off we went. I was pleased that the clinic looked clean and was equipped with computers. It even had a movie playing on a big screen TV starring The Rock (Yum, eye candy, scratch, scratch, itch, itch). I refrained myself the best I could to prevent further damage to the welts which had now taken over my arms, legs, ears and neck.
It Has a Good Beat and You Can Scratch to It.
After waiting long enough to see a happy ending to the movie, my name was called and I was escorted back where another nurse repeated the same familiar questions. I scratched out my answers and within moments, I was diagnosed with Hives, also called Urticaria. These are red bumps on the skin that usually itch. No joke. After a Decadron 8 MG injection, they gave me a patient instruction sheet explaining my condition.
What Causes Hives? "The hives of short duration are sometimes caused by foods, insect bites, medicines or some other substances." Really? That doesn't narrow it down much.
"Drugs and infections are common causes in children. In chronic urticaria, we are unable to find the cause in most cases. Stress and anxiety or other emotional factors are felt to play a major role in some chronic types. Pollen that is inhaled and parasites or some other infestation may be involved. There is also a type of hives which is known to be triggered by heat, emotions, exercise or cold."
The itching continued on day five, although the spread of the welts slowed down. The clinic said the hives would eventually disappear on their own and that skin testing is rarely helpful. They told me to avoid scratching as this will make the itch start to feel worse. Really, thanks.
After an assault of intense itching followed along with an assault of scratching, I headed for the bottle of anti-itch pills on day six, I was somewhat better, although the spots were not completely gone. Towards the time when another pill came due, the itching increased and scratching became automatic and rampant. I hadn't found what might be triggering the rash, although I'd eliminated everything I could think of that could have caused the outbreak.
Have you ever had hives?
After a full week of itching, I finally gave in and went to my primary care physician who knew immediately what to do. Five minutes later I had a prescription for a steroid which I filled at the original pharmacy where I started off. Minutes after taking the tablet the itching stopped and I felt like a kid again. Okay, maybe I felt more like a middle-aged person. Either way, it was blessed relief.
Notes and References
© 2010 Peg Cole