As we all know, it is important to exercise to stay in good physical health. But when you have a condition such as cholinergic urticaria (heat hives), this can be a serious challenge. So I thought I would write a few tips for those who want to still exercise, and also for those who may just be finding out that they have this condition and don’t want to be like a hermit all the time.
First, cholinergic urticaria is slightly different from another condition called “exercise induced anaphylaxis.” Exercise anaphylaxis is a little more life threatening than CU. Basically, people with this condition have similar symptoms as CU sufferers because they have a response when they get hot as well, but the main difference is they begin to go into shock (their throats can swell shut, etc). People with this condition can actually die from lack of oxygen & shock. So this post isn’t really geared towards that, however, some of these tips may help those with that condition as well. Instead, these tips are for people who break out in hives & itching when they get hot. (As a side note, thankfully my throat has never started to shut on me, even during my worst break outs. So I guess I should be thankful for that).
Also, some of us try to “force ourselves to sweat.” This can be great sometimes to help manage the hives, but for those occasions where you have intense reactivity, and just want a simple workout without going through the agony of the itching & stinging, then these tips can help minimize your hives.
Tip 1: Consider Home Gym Equipment–Gyms can be a great place to socialize. They also usually have all the best equipment to stay in shape. However, it can be quite a challenge & very embarrasing to be breaking out in front of a group of people scratching yourself to death while you wait for the hives to finally give up its ruthless grip on your body. Plus many gym memberships can be a bit pricey. So if possible, it may be a better idea to invest that money in a few basic exercise machines, and some free weights. This way, you can work out in the comfort of your own home. Treadmills or elliptical machines have come down in price over the years, and you can often find them for as little as $100 or less on sale. Also, home gym machines and free weights can also be found for less than $200. This equipment would be more than enough to ensure you get a full cardio & physical workout. Or, in some cases you don’t even need equipment. You can do ab crunches, pushups, ect. & stay in great shape as well.
Tip 2: Prepare for the workout–If you make the move to set up your own home exercise area, then you can easily work out in the comfort of your own home. I have always liked this better, because then you can listen to whatevere music you want, wear whatever you want, and don’t have to drive your car somewhere, or wait on a person to stop using an exercise machine. But I like to do a little preparation before I exercise (especially when I don’t want to break out in hives).
Tip 3: Turn on the AC–First, I usually adjust my thermostat to a cooler temperature. This way, my body will take longer to actually heat up once I start exercising. It is a good idea to do this at least 30 minutes prior to exercising to give your heat pump/air conditioner time to cool the rooms.
Tip 4: Get a Fan–Next, I like to get my fan ready, and angle to where it will be blowing air directly at me as I work out. I am talking about those large square fans that really move a lot of air. I bought mine for only $10 at Walmart. This is a great way to keep cool during the workout. (As a side note, a nice loud fan can be your best friend if you live in an apartment & don’t want to hear your neighbors doing whatever…)
Tip 5: Wear Cool Clothing–After I get the temperature controlled, you should think about your exercise clothing. It is probably not the best idea to wear sweat pants & a sweat shirt, or other tight or thick clothing. Instead, I usually wear a light pair of loose-fitting black shorts (the nylon net kind), and either don’t wear a shirt at all, or I wear a very light & thin t-shirt or tank top. This can be a BIG factor in helping you stay cool.
Tip 6: Get a Cold Drink–After this, it is a good idea to have a cold drink on hand. I usually have some cold water ready, so I can drink it any time I get thirsty during the workout. This also helps you stay on the inside, and keeps you from getting dehydrated.
Tip 7: Make Your Own Sweat–Last but not least, this is perhaps your best friend when it comes to preventing outbreaks…A Squirt Bottle. You can usually get a standard squirt bottle in a store for $1 or less (I wouldn’t recommend using one that previously had any chemical cleaners in it though–I would opt to get a new one).
Fill up your squirt bottle with water, and stick in in the freezer for a while & let it get really cold (but not frozen). Then, set it somewhere while you work out. If you start to get itchy, squirt yourself a few times with a cold mist. This will usually stop the CU dead in its tracks, especially if the water is ice cold and you stand in front of the fan. You can also squirt yourself a few times to help prevent an outbreak as well as stopping one after it started. Remember, we have trouble sweating, and this mist simulates sweat on our bodies. So it helps cool the body down tremendously.
Something that has always been somewhat strange to me, is that I can literally start having a terrible hives reaction, but if I jump in a cold shower or somehow cool my body down really fast, it will stop almost immediately (I am talking like 2 seconds). Isn’t that strange? Just that quick & it will stop.
Anyways, don’t let cholinergic urticaria stop you from having those tight abs, or bulging biceps. You can still find ways to stay in great shape, and have a great workout. Don’t let the hives ruin your life or prevent you from staying healthy!
Lastly, I’ve written an article on how I was finally able to ease back into exercise after a paricularly severe period of hives. Read about it here: How I was able to exercise with cholinergic urticaria.
As you all know, I have been going gluten-free and milk-free to see if it has any relationship with the hives. So far, the hives have lessened in intensity a little. It is not a huge difference, but again, I am going to do this for at least 2 months, so I can finally rule the diet out once and for all. Some days I think the diet may be causing it, other days I just don’t know. But since other people I have spoken with confirmed that it took them up to 1-2 months before their hives went away, I am not giving up on the diet until the full time has passed.
But the way I look at it, is like Thomas Edison when he was inventing the light bulb. Supposedly it took him 1000 times until he got it just right to where the light bulb would burn. He didn’t view those times as a failure.
Instead, when someone asked him about it he said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have
successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” So that is the way I kind of look at the cholinergic urticaria. I hate it so bad, that I will try everything I can to make it go away. If it doesn’t work, then I have not yet failed. I have just successfully found a way that Doesn’t work, then I can mark it off my list and move on to the other idea. Maybe one day, I will find the one thing that is causing this, and if I can change it, I can live hives free once again…
UPDATE: 1/21/13 This is an old archived post, and I have made more recent posts regarding my new diet and how I was able to finally get my hives under control. Read more about it on my cholinergic urticaria diet page. What I essentially did was keep a journal and do several allergy elimination diets.