I have a rule about not searching for medical symptoms online. Easiest way to scare yourself silly short of playing a horror game at 3 a.m. with nobody home and the sound up–especially if you have a huge cancer risk in your family . But after enduring five months of red rashes across my knuckles, wrists, forearms, chest, scalp, face, and kneecaps, I gave up and pulled up a Google tab.
I ended up bouncing around a Wikipedia page, then a section of the Mayo clinic website. I had three doctor’s appointments in five months–more than I’d scheduled over the last five years–and only the last one gave me anything conclusive. The first one told me to wait on it and come back if it persisted in a week. I’m a journalism student who, at the time, worked as a staff reporter on a local paper. My family doctor was an hour-and-a-half train ride from me, so I didn’t find the time to book a follow-up appointment so quickly. Eventually, I tried a drop-in at the clinic of my university. The guy took one look at me, a photo of my chest mid-reaction I had, and told me to wear more breathable clothing. That was it.
I finally managed to book a third appointment this afternoon. My doctor waffled a bit, but she thinks I have CU, or some sort of persistent heat rash. Which, given the symptoms I’ve had and the other stories I’ve seen on this website, is not too far from the truth.
My symptoms have been fairly localized–I don’t get any reaction on my legs, back, top of my skull (around my scalp, but never anywhere beyond my hairline) or shoulder blades. Everything else is fair game. Until recently, I only got raised mini-hives on the back of my left wrist. I had an attack on Monday that triggered them across both of my forearms, all the way to the elbow–possibly the worst one I’ve had yet.
Any sort of activity involving heat or sweating triggers it. Exercise, stress, (occasionally) hot/spicy food. I used to do 30-50 kilometre bike rides all the time between Toronto, Mississauga, and my home town. Not anymore. I’m also a drummer in a band. Don’t know how long that’s going to last. I can’t even get through three songs without an attack.
It’s winter in Canada right now, but spring is on the way. And while I’m perfectly fine in 23 Celsius temperatures if I don’t exert myself at all (including long-distance walking), my area is known to get to 35 without humidity, all the time. I also have an outdoor summer job lined up. I’m sure I’ll be able to manage, but I don’t know how that’s going to happen at the moment.
This isn’t terminal, doesn’t have major long-term health impacts, and isn’t contagious–and I’m very thankful that these aren’t the case. But cholinergic urticaria is going to change what I’m capable of for the next few months at least, if not years. I’ve been fortunate to have had no serious medical complications in my life. I’m not used to being occupied with what I can’t do. That’s changed.