Itching in public…it isn’t fun, right? Hives can attack us when we least expect it, and in the most uncomfortable of situations. At work, at school, at social events, parties, home, and everything in-between. Personally, I HATE having a Cholinergic Urticaria reaction–so I generally do everything in my power to avoid it as much as possible. So I thought I would share a few tips on how you can cut out your chances of having to itch and scratch like crazy in front of the public’s eye. If you have had Cholinergic Urticaria for a while, you probably already do some of these things, but if you are completely new these tips may help you out.
How to Manage Cholinergic Urticaria Reactions in Public:
- First, do everything in your power to avoid the reaction in the first place. This means avoiding your triggers (heat), wearing light colored clothing on sunny days, wear thin clothing, try to control the temperature if possible, and take it easy when walking to places. Take deep breaths, avoid things that may embarrass you, or make you anxious. The best way to deal with a reaction is to avoid it completely in the first place.
- If any combination of medicines (such as antihistamines) help at all, consider taking them for that one day (of course, follow the dosage instructions). This may reduce the attacks, or prevent them all together.
- Try to exercise in the morning, to clear out the reaction and also your histamine. This can be painful and even dangerous. However, some people get up early and do a hard workout routine to get the hives out of their system for a few hours.
- If you do have a reaction in public-Don’t freak out! Getting nervous and thinking, ‘Oh no, people are going to think I am a freak’ usually only increases your temperature and makes the breakouts come on faster and more intense (trust me, I know). So try to relax and breath. One thing I have noticed is that it feels much worse than it looks. Most people will not realize you are having the most excruciating pain in your body, and the only thing they may notice is your scratching.
- At the moment you start to break out, try to quickly go where you can privately scratch and cool yourself down. If you are at work, school, or a store, try to go to a restroom (you can go in a stall and scratch yourself until it goes away. You can also splash some cool water on you, which could help stop the reaction. This can help out majorly. The freezer section may help at the store, but not always.
- Consider carrying an ice pack or small squirt bottle or water bottle– This is a strategy I have used often in the past. In fact, when I had my first trip to the dermatologist I took a squirt bottle with me and started spraying myself while I was in the lobby (I had a reaction). It can help to cool your body temperature. An ice pack also works great, and you can store them in a backpack, lunchbox, or briefcase-and then slide it in your pocket while you are going to be in public. As you probably know, cooling your body off quickly can sometimes stop the reaction immediately.
- Try to make your scratching random and don’t draw attention to yourself. I usually just try to simply scratch myself and “pretend” like I might have an ordinary itch like anyone else. In reality I am usually wishing I could rip my shirt off and roll around on the ground scratching like crazy! But scratch a couple of times of your face, then secretly scratch your back, then your arms, etc. in a random and quiet fashion makes it less obvious. After all, we know we can’t really resist scratching. I have tried, and it is nearly impossible (it is like not blinking for 10 minutes). If you can sit there and not scratch, then you have my greatest respect, because I just can’t do it. The funny thing is, I have to scratch, but the scratching really doesn’t help much. Cholinergic urticaria is the itch you must scratch, but the scratch that can’t relieve.
- Keep your fingernails short! If you have long nails (ladies or lazy guys) then you can really damage your skin and leave monstrous claw marks after a bad CU hives attack. I keep my fingernails almost to the nub! Well, not really the nub, but let me put it this way, I never have fingernail marks that stay on my skin after the attack clears.
- If you are in school, try to sit in the back of the classroom. At work, try to sit in the back office or avoid contact as much as possible. This will ensure that you have a quick exit route if you ever need to get out quickly.
- If you can’t do any of the above, and you find yourself having a monster hives attack with no way of escaping or cooling yourself down, then you may just have to wing it and tough it out! I usually just scratch and try to get through it. My hives usually start itching bad, then I get this burning sensation that radiates down my body, and then finally relief. After the hives are over, I am usually tired, but I have also found that after a severe reaction, I will usually be okay for a while. So if you have this reaction, I feel for you, but at least it will probably go away within a few minutes, and hopefully you won’t be too wiped out afterward. Of course, if you ever start feeling like you can’t breathe (anaphylactic shock), call the hospital or 911 as soon as possible!
- Last but not least, if people do notice your scratching, just try to explain it in terms they will understand. I don’t always feel like sitting there and explaining to people, “Well I have this rare hives condition in which my body breaks into hives when I get hot and I itch like crazy.” You will get a lot of raised eyebrows when you say that. So sometimes I will just say, “Man I am having an allergic reaction to some food I ate, or my detergent.” People can at least understand that a little better. But I only use that when I am not in the mood to sit there and explain my crazy condition called cholinergic urticaria!