I was sure I was never going to bring this up on my blog. I was positive I couldn’t write about it and I was too scared to be judged for it. But it has affected my lifestyle so much, and I feel I need to write about it.
Living with urticaria is hard. It has a horrible sound to the name, and not many people actually know what it is. It’s not something terrifying, or venereal… it’s just a skin condition. But one that is seriously affecting my lifestyle…
I started getting cold urticaria symptoms really badly about a year ago. . .
It’s a recurring problem for me, I’ve had it for years except I didn’t know I did. I just thought it was my allergies playing up, or i was so unfit my body didn’t know how to handle frequent sweating from my trips to the gym. I even got puffy eyes once from the gym, from where I had wiped my eyes too vigorously. I’m allergic to my own sweat.
Not something you want to hear when you’re a month into trying to lose a lot of weight. However a diagnosis and a trip scheduled to see an allergist sometime next month, makes me hopeful. I now know what I’ve been fighting against for the past year.
For those who don’t know what has brought on this tirade- urticaria is a skin condition caused by an allergic reaction to something. Your body goes into OTT protective mode and administers a lot of histamine, making you scratch like hell etc, forcing you to take cover indoors and take a lot of antihistamines and water! ( I won’t scare you with gory details, instead more baby swans with their parents from one of my many urticaria-defying walks!)
For me, it got really bad this time last year. I assumed it was my eczema playing up, but when everyday was scratching until i bled, I couldn’t walk to uni anymore because of the reaction it was causing- i began realising something was wrong. Red bumps allover my skin and pain. So much pain sometimes i’d feel faint. Allover my arms, my chest, tummy and worse of all my legs. My legs look like they’ve been in a war. I was going out with leggings under jeans right up until June, wearing gloves at all times, and then when I got indoors, locking myself in a toilet for about half an hour until the pain calmed down and I’d stopped scratching. I hated having to use the bus at home cos as soon as I got on, I was trying to scratch the backs of my legs quietly without looking weird. Bit hard to do to be honest.
I had three weeks in London in August and wow it was amazing. I was home with my parents and commuting to London and i honestly couldn’t remember the last time my skin felt that happy. No fresh scratch marks or itchy pain the whole time I was down there! I was so happy but scared to come back to Newcastle.
And i was right to be scared. I walked across the street to the shops and back. A distance of no more than a mile altogether, had me in a different sort of pain. Red flushed cheeks that were searing hot and I was itching allover again, It was exactly like the cold urticaria reaction, just hot! I had no idea what was going on. Until I looked it up and had it later confirmed by the doctor, I also react to cholinergic urticaria. BLOODY HELL. This means that any slight raise in the body’s temperature due to weather, exercise, stress or anxiety can cause this flushed cheek itching to begin. I felt like I was having hot flashes at 22! I was so embarrassed!
Having this condition has drained all my confidence. Any confidence I had in myself to lose weight quickly left as what little exercise I had been doing disappeared, and I gained two stone. I was itchy, overweight and covered in scabby dry skin. In all honesty, my self confidence has never been so low. But luckily every now and again I feel a bit better and am slowly gaining my confidence by taking small steps towards getting fitter, looking after my skin and appearance and by becoming more involved at university and not letting this keep me out of the loop!
It’s really hard to share this image for me. My weight has always been an issue and so I’ve never liked taking my photo or having it be taken. But this photo was trying on shorts in the hope some sun would help my skin. Here you can slightly see the patchy, reaction skin from where I’d been scratching a lot. It’s left scars already, and patches of discoloured skin that embarrass me to hell. I look at other people walking around town and not only do I envy their slender calves, or tan skin, but now they’re soft skin. I honestly can’t remember how it feels.
BUT I refuse to let it be my downfall. I hate it, omg do I hate it. I’ve never cried so much in my life. Over my skin!
Starting Urticaria Treatment…
I’m seeing an allergist sometime next month, I’ve been given a stronger dose of antihistamine and i’m forever on google looking for real-life accounts of this and how people cope.
Typical that I would get into cycling, an outdoor sport in the wind and rain, just as I develop urticaria. But in a way, it’ll be a good thing. It gives me something to fight against whilst I lose weight.
I’m also switching gyms so that my entire life is based on campus (which is right in the centre of town) which will make travelling around a lot easier. I’m going to have a new schedule as well I think. No matter what I have to be in uni sometimes during the week, so my plan is to head into uni earlier than necessary by bike. Lock it up and head for the gym. If I have time before lectures, I’ll do a workout and then shower. If not, I’ll just nip in have a quick shower and get changed then go to lectures. Then on the way home at the end of the day, I can work out if need be, hop on my bike, head home and shower there.
I’m also going to have to be more strict with my diet as research online is showing me that urticaria can be triggered by literally anything, especially from food allergies. So, I’m going to be stricter with my diet in the hope of helping my urticaria and eczema issues as well as helping me on my weight-loss journey.
I am also refusing to let it get in the way of living my life. I’ve been out for three cycles in the past week and commuted twice to uni by bike as well as a nice walk or two. I know my skin is going to hurt later, but I want to get out of my room and live my life!
I will also need to step up my ‘taking care of myself’. That means staying on top of prescriptions, tablets, inhalers and my skincare regime. Otherwise this is going to be one painful winter!
So for now, I need to get my prescription and crack on with my safe, doctor approved way to look after my skin and workout. I refuse to let it beat me because I want nothing more than to be slimmer and healthier!
I’ll write an update at some point in the next couple of months.
In the meantime, this will be me commuting!
For anyone else out there, I really recommend getting to the doctor and referred to an allergist!