My cholinergic urticaria started back in the early winter of 2013. I thought it was just going to be a common Winter’s itch, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. I remember coming to this site (and actually posting my then-current story in this forum) to help self-diagnose my condition (I eventually got officially diagnosed by my allergist) and hopefully get some advice of what I could possibly do to make this experience as painless as possible.
Unfortunately, it was never really painless until I started noticing my symptoms going away. For me, my cholinergic urticaria lasted just about 7 months. The first couple of months was just unbearable itching with no signs of what was causing it. Anytime I would laugh, get embarrassed, get frustrated, be in a mildly warm room, use a slightly heavy blanket while I slept, the burning and itching would hit hard and fast. I really couldn’t do anything. I even went as far as not wearing a coat outside in the middle of a Chicago winter out of fear that I would breakout. (I even almost left my job because I couldn’t handle the burning sometimes.)
But somewhat fortunately for me, my bedroom is right next to the bathroom, so if the sensations ever got too bad, I could run there and splash cold water all over my legs, stomach, arms and neck fairly quick. Speaking of bathrooms, lifestyle and diet alterations were not the only changes I had to make either. I had to change up my hygiene.
Prior to my outbreaks, I would shower probably 5-6 times per week. During the outbreaks…maybe once. Not only the heat from the water on my body, but the way the water hit me irritated my skin so bad I would have to jump out of the shower, dry off, and just sit on the ground until my body could relax itself. My body wash and shampoo weren’t doing me any favors either. There’s something in the highly perfume-y ones that my body also rejected, and once I noticed that, I switched both to something that provided a smoother, skin-protecting wash and still do to this day. In order to keep my hygiene up and my smells away, I would wash my hair in a sink and basically give myself a sponge-bath using some cool water and a washcloth.
The next few months took place towards the end of winter and early spring. This was probably when my CU was at its worse, but it was also the time when I was more proactive about getting better. I was in my second year of college at the time, but rather than carrying around a backpack filled with books, I carried around backpack filled with over-the-counter items that I used to cope with my struggle.
Whether or not they worked was kind of hard to tell, but I never left the house without them. Those items are as follows: GoldBond itch cream, a jar of Vaseline, my very expensive Zyrtec liqui-gels, some regular skin lotion and a Bactine spray bottle. It might have just been some sort of placebo effect, but out of everything I tried, the Zyrtec seemed to the trick. To me, the other creams and sprays just provided a nice cooling sensation that kept my body at ease for a short while.
I also changed my diet pretty drastically during this time. I always loved salty snacks, especially popcorn and Slim Jims. But I cut them out. Instead, I started eating a lot of granola, yogurt and fruits, all while cutting out sugary drinks and increasing my water intake. Side note: I’ve never known anyone else with CU so I’m not exactly sure what they’re exact symptoms are, but for me, I couldn’t sweat to save my life (and before this I was a heavy sweat-er) and my allergist said that’s what was causing the itching. Essentially, just a build-up of toxins that couldn’t escape through sweat so they had to be released through the wheals and rashes that formed on my body. I was also very insecure about how much I used to sweat, so I think my mind kind of just told my body to not do it. That’s what I blame my CU on — that and salty snacks.
During my last few months of suffering (end of spring), something amazing happened…I begin sweating! It wasn’t much, but it was there and I was ecstatic. Since I was still in school, I wasn’t exempt from giving speeches in front of the classroom. At the time, talking in front of an audience was something I found to be nerve wracking, and my brain recognized this and gave me a nervous sweat.
Then a few weeks later I received a prank phone call from a friend of a friend, saying he was a police detective and that they had some sort of evidence linking me to a crime. It sounds stupid, but it was really convincing and it made me very nervous. At the end of the call, he revealed it was a prank — I was very relieved, but also itchy…and once again sweating — this time a little bit more than last.
Right around the end of May and the start of June, I was feeling back to my original self. Not perfect, but far, far better than I had been the last half-year or so. I don’t really know how to end this and I really don’t feel like typing anymore, so all I’m going to say is that I haven’t had any signs or symptoms of CU since then and I couldn’t be happier. Also, nowadays, I’ll take a pit stain of itchiness any day. Bring on the sweat!
If you have any questions you wanna ask me about my experience or want some TOTALLY NON-PROFESSIONAL advice, just direct message me on Twitter, @FettaWorldPeace. You don’t even have to follow or anything, I just wanna help the CU community.