Heat hives can stop you dead in your tracks. In fact, when it attacks, it can immediately make you drop to your knees in unbearable itching and pain.
“Why am I getting so itchy and tingling every time I get hot?”–Is a question everyone who has suffered from cholinergic urticaria (heat hives) has probably asked themselves.
Cholinergic urticaria (heat hives) is a terrible condition in which the body will break out into a tingly, painful, but intensely itchy feeling when the person becomes hot, exercises, gets stressed out, nervous, or if the body temperature rises. This condition can be extremely difficult to manage. Trust me, I know–I suffered with this for over a decade (on and off).
I have decided to write this article about it in hopes that any other sufferers out there may find comfort that they are not the “only ones.” Also, hopefully you can learn from my trial and error of “what has worked & what hasn’t worked” in helping to cure or calm the condition.
There are thousands of others that suffer from this condition, although it seems to be unknown to most people (including many doctors).
First, let me break down the symptoms of this horrible disease, then I will talk about my own personal story and provide some additional information and things I have concluded about this condition that can help you deal with it better (hopefully). You can also watch the video below for a short explanation of this disorder:
Heat Hives Symptoms
The biggest and most obvious symptom of this disease is an INTENSE itching and tingling feeling when you get hot, stressed, nervous, when you exercise, work, or anything that causes your body to increase in temperature or release a chemical receptor telling your body to sweat.
Other symptoms of heat hives may include:
- Red flushing during the breakout (like how your cheeks blush when you get embarrassed) on areas of the body. This is usually on the areas where the itching is occurring, and it disappears a few minutes after the itching stops.
- Small hives or bumps (ranging from the size of tiny mole to the size the pupil of your eye) that may appear on the body. Usually, these bumps only appear in a strong outbreak. They can appear within a few seconds, and they usually do not last any longer than about 5-15 minutes. They tend to completely disappear just a few minutes after the itching stops.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you could have cholinergic urticaria.
What are the Causes of Heat Hives (Cholinergic Urticaria)?
Generally, doctors have no clue as to what causes this condition. Many refer to it as idiopathic in nature (meaning it has no known cause).
Here are some of my own theories as to what could be causing this condition based on my own research and experience:
- One cause could be an undiscovered allergen in the atmosphere or a food allergy or insensitivity. This could be stressing the body out, causing the reaction to occur when you get hot.
- It could be an autoimmune disorder. Some doctors have conducted tests on CU sufferers where they will withdraw the serum from the blood & re-inject it into your body. They patient then experienced a localized reaction (wheal and flare) indicating autoimmunity (blackwell-synergy article).
- It could be shrinkage or blockage of the sweat glands. When the body gets hot or nervous, it tries to release sweat. However, the sweat pores are blocked. This causes an intense itching & burning/tingly feeling due to a nervous system response.
- It could be a vitamin deficiency, hormone problem, thyroid problem, or other imbalances in the body. This could be causing the body to produce to much histamine, IgE, or other chemical that is causing the body to have an allergic reaction.
Of course, those are just some theories I have developed or come across from my frequent researching of this condition. Those are not medical facts. But one thing is for sure, something is definitely causing this terrible condition.
My Own Personal Story
I developed this condition when I was 18 years old. I suddenly started noticing that every time I got hot, my body would start itching everywhere.
It would mostly itch on my head/face, neck, arms, chest, stomach, and back. Basically, it mostly affected my upper body, and occasionally my legs would itch on a bad breakout. After this got worse and worse, I decided to go to the doctor. I made an appointment with a dermatologist. He immediately saw that my skin was flushing (it was hot inside the building).
He said “Something is stressing out your body. Do you have an infection any where?” I told him no. He then looked at my body, and he just prescribed me an antihistamine called hydroxyzine.
At first, it seemed as if it was working. It almost knocked me out within 2 hours (it makes you extremely drowsy). However, after a few days when my body got less and less drowsy I could tell that I was still getting itchy.
After a couple of weeks, it was just as bad as it ever was. I made another appointment to the doctor. This time, he decided to give me a steroid shot. This did not help either. Eventually, I decided to give up due to the fact that nothing was working and healthcare is too expensive anyways.
After that, I have suffered with this condition on and off for about 10 yaers. Occasionally, my body seemed to calm down. I went for a period of about 2 1/2 years where I had virtually no breakouts. Then, it came back.
Eventually, a new problem developed. I started getting an eczema rash on the back of my neck, arms, and back of my lower legs. This would not go away either. I tried steroid cream and thankfully that helped.
The steroid cream would make it go away temporarily, but it kept coming back. Then, I decided to alter my diet and get more sun exposure. This made my eczema clear up, but the heat hives were still around. I kept tweaking my diet (doing allergy elimination diets and so forth), until I finally “cured” them.
This is the strangest condition, too. If I was in a cool environment, I would never breakout itching. However, if I stepped outside on a 90 degree day, or started exercising, I’d suddenly start feeling this incredible itching sensation. It occured in waves, one after the other, just pricks everywhere that itched so badly. You try to scratch, but it doesn’t relieve the itch.
This is not your ordinary “mosquito bite” type itch, either. This is a “oh wow, I am going to rip my skin off” type of itch. It is impossible to ignore it. PERIOD. You cannot resist it, especially when it is a bad breakout.
Also, another strange thing is that when I would start itching, and if I quickly cooled down, the itching would stop. If I got hot again, it started back up. I could literally breakout into an itchy mess on demand if I wanted! I could have hives whenever I want!
So what does it look like exactly? Well again, I would usually just get itchy. If it is a bad breakout, then I will get red blotchy looking skin (called flushing). Also, I will break out in a few random tiny bumps (hives). You can see what heat hives looks like by looking at pictures on this site.
How Can Your Cure or Treat Cholinergic Urticaria (hives)?
Basically, there is no cure for this condition in the traditional medical sense (meaning you can treat it with medicine). However, I was able to cure mine via diet and a few other things that I’ve mentioned on this site (diet, exercise, lotion, probiotics, etc.). This condition may even clear up on its own.
According to several medical websites, it may go away on its own after about 5-10 years. It also has been known to go away for a period of time and then come back. However, some people have reported having this on and off for as long as 30 years or more.
Some people that suffer from this condition have noticed that it only occurs during the winter months. During the summer, if they are outside and active, it usually clears up and their body sweats again normally.
Okay, so what has worked and what has not worked to cure this? Below are several things I have either tried, or talked about with others who have tried it. I am not a medical doctor, so please understand this is not medical advice.
What has helped with this condition:
- If you can force your body to sweat on a regular basis, this tends to help. Of course this is easier said than done. But most people I have talked to seem to say that they try to get out and exercise or get out in the hot sun and sweat for as long as they can. This tends to help keep the condition at bay and it maintains an open pathway for the sweat glands. Of course they will start itching initially, but they will then sweat and stop itching. After doing this for a period of time, some people report that the condition clears up completely. This is called “sweat therapy,” and there are a few articles on this site about it (I also made a video if you look at the video archive page).
- Avoiding hot temperatures and exercise is another way to keep the condition from breaking out. Of course, it is important to exercise, and unless you live in an igloo you will not be able to avoid this 100%. But as a general rule, if you are calm & cool, you won’t break out.
- Improving your diet could also help with this condition. Diet was the biggest factor in my hives, and that is what I attribute as the main cause. However, I also do other things that help, as I’ve mentioned in several videos/articles (and in my book).
- Humidifiers, shower filters, water softeners, and steam rooms have also helped to improve chronic hives in many people.
What has NOT helped with this condition:
- Acupuncture therapy does not seem to be effective in most individuals I have talked to.
- Antihistamines do not seem to help with this condition for many, although they may provide some relief. Some people report a small improvement, some don’t. Most agree that they definitely do not make it go away completely. Personally, they do not help very much at all and make me sleepy.
- Parasite cleanses/Candida cleanses also do not seem to be very helpful for most people.
- Steroids also may help a little, but it is probably not worth the health risk.
- Other medication, such as immunosuppressants have seemed to provide some relief. However, please keep in mind that these types of drugs are very dangerous and studies have shown that they can lead to cancer, heart problems, and other effects.
This is a terrible condition. However, there are many ways to treat it or minimize symptoms. So far, no decrease in life span or associations with terminal diseases such as cancer, etc. have been linked to this condition (thankfully).
This is very difficult thing to deal with, however, you are not alone! Try to improve your diet, get out in the sun and sweat. This usually helps improve this condition.
In my personal opinion I would avoid dangerous medications unless your doctor specifically says you NEED to take them for some other reason.
What can you do to help? You can check out a website & forum dedicated to Cholinergic Urticaria to help others & learn more about it.
More Information About Cholinergic Urticaria:
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