Uticaria - help with hives, please.

I have chronic uticaria. It started in August/September of 2000. I had just returned from a month long vacation in Spain/Greece where I partied like a rock star. By the time I got home, I was beat-up and run-down. I know now that uticaria can sometimes be triggered by stress or a “weakened physical state”. I figure my overseas binge brought this on. sigh

However, at the time, I had no clue what was happening to me. Hives started appearing all over my body. When my lips started sweeling, I finally visited a doctor. He told me I was having an allergic reaction. That didn’t cut it for me…I was still worried. After several more attacks, I finally visited an allergist. He gave my “allergic reaction” a name…uticaria. I was worried for a while that they would have to name a new disease after me. Anyway, since then I’ve been on and off of Zantac, Zyrtec and Prednisone. One attack had me swelled and in the hospital at 3am getting pumped up with cortisone. After that attack, I went on a STRICT diet. For about a month, I ate NOTHING except eggs, plain pasta, baked potatoes, plain tuna, spinach and OJ. What a hellish month. BUT…the attacks stopped! When I re-visted the doc, he stopped my pills and suggested I re-introduce 1 new food a week. Instead of trying “safe” foods, I went for the 1 thing I thought may be the cause. Dairy. Monday I ate half a container of cottage cheese. Tuesday I swelled up like the Michelin Man. Bingo! Since then (about a month ago), the only other severe attack I’ve had was after accidentaly eating some tartar sauce (I didn’t know it contained skim milk). So, I was about 95% sure that the culprit was dairy (milk products).

Until recently. I’ve started to get the hives again as well as swelled lips. And I haven’t touched any dairy in weeks!

So…am I back at square one? Do I go back to the “hell” diet again?

Uticaria really stinks. I’m an active 27 year old male. I’ve been healthy my entire life. I’ve never had a major illness…I play sports…I workout. Now this. However, it could be worse. I’ve missed plenty of days of work because I didn’t want to scare everyone at the office with my freakish face. However, I’d much rather miss work than be laid up in the hospital with something much more debilitating. Could be worse…

Anyway…does anyone else have this condition or any ideas??

Anyone…anyone at all?

Can’t help you on the problem, man, but it may be the title that’s putting people off.

The layman’s term for urticaria is hives. Most people know it as that. The only information I have close at hand comes from my medical dictionary, which describes various forms of urticaria but not how long they take to resolve.

Good luck, I’m sure you must be terribly uncomfortable.

Okay, you’re 27, you’re old enough to understand this. Prepare to be yelled at.

[mom voice]

An elimination diet doesn’t work if you don’t do it right.

You fell into the classic “I know better than the doctor” trap, and as a result you are no better off than you were before you spent a month on the “hellish” diet. You wasted that whole month, and now if you really want to know what’s causing your allergy, you’re going to have to start all over again.

Also, was the “hellish” diet something your allergist recommended, i.e. specifically gave you a diet sheet for, a list of foods? Or was it just something you made up yourself? “Well, these are the foods I think are maybe giving me hives, so I’ll stop eating them and see what happens”?

A classic, standard elimination diet is basically nothing but rice and oats for carbs, any kind of meat you want, any kind of fruits and vegetables except for tomatoes, corn, and citrus, and no dairy, or eggs. It also does not allow tea, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and any foods with preservatives or additives.

I am EXTREMELY surprised to find citrus, eggs, and wheat (pasta) on your “elimination diet”, as they are always listed as “foods to avoid”.

And you think THIS diet was hellish? Wait until you’ve spent a month eating nothing but rice and boiled chicken. This is not an elimination diet, by any sense of the word. You accomplished precisely nothing. All you’ve established is that you are POSSIBLY allergic to dairy products. But obviously there’s something else, because you eliminated the dairy and the hives went away, but then they came back. So you’re still eating something that you’re allergic to.

Avoiding dairy also includes avoiding virtually all baked goods, because they usually have skim milk in some form added to them. So you probably didn’t avoid dairy as well as you thought you did, and so you still didn’t really prove anything.

You don’t need an allergist to give you an elimination diet. They’re all over the Web. Here’s one.


But what you DO need is the self-discipline not to cheat, because otherwise you’ll screw up your results and you’ll never figure it out.

Speaking as someone who has BEEN THERE…

[mom voice signing off]


P.S. And you DO need to figure this out, because some food allergies, like peanuts, can be life-threatening. Look up “anaphylactic shock” on the Web.



P.P.S. Re scaring people at the office: if you really do turn out to have a severe food allergy, they need to know about it. Some people with severe food allergies wear Medic Alert bracelets.

Also, everybody at work will think it’s kewl that you’re on an elimination diet. Seriously. Tell them what you’re doing, you’ll be amazed at the support and interest. Hives are non-contagious and therefore not really frightening to people. And there’s a certain cachet to finally be able to say, “Oh, I can’t touch strawberries, I’ll swell up like a balloon.”

First off…thanks very much for the reply! Sorry for my slow reply. I had to leave work early yesterday due to another severe attack. sigh

You got it. I made the diet up myself. The doctor did give me a pamphlet with a list of “dangerous” foods to stay away from. The diet I created was a combo of foods that I thought would give me enough strength to carry on day-to-day activities. I was also taking a multi-vitamin (Centrum A-Z).

However, although I did make up the diet myself…it seemed to work. I didn’t get any hives or have any swelling for the duration. Apparently, I wasn’t allergic to anything I was eating. When I stopped the diet, the first food I ate was dairy (cottage cheese)…and I had another attack. Isn’t this evidence enough?

When I stopped the diet, I also stopped taking the pills. Were the pills preventing that attacks? Was I allergic to something in my diet, but couldn’t tell due to the pills? Maybe the diet had nothing to do with it?

**Was it the addition of dairy or the absence of pills that caused the attack? **

I got a refill of my prescription yesterday (150mg zantac, 10mg zyrtec - each once a day) as well as some topical cortizone spray (to soothe the terrible itching). I’m going to take your advice about the strict elimination diet (thanks for the links!). However, won’t this diet kill me? My previous “diet” included many more foods and I still felt weak (energy-sapped) all the time. I figure I’ll be bed-ridden eating just chicken/rice.

I can live without the coffee, tea, and chocolate but…no booze? Ugh! During my (apparenlty lame :slight_smile: ) diet, I was mostly drinking vodka/tonics. Are these safe?

I have enough self-discipline to stick to ANY diet. I want to figure out what is causing this. My doctor (spoke with him yesterday as well) says I may be on pills for the rest of my life. sigh


:slight_smile: Thanks. You’re right. In fact, the other folks in my department that DO know have been quite supportive. The folks in my office that don’t know are the ones I shy away from.

Uticaria really sucks. However, it could be worse. I’ve missed plenty of days of work because of this. However, I’d much rather miss work than be laid up in the hospital with something much more debilitating. No pity party here.

Thanks again!

Well, thank you for not yelling at me for yelling at you. :slight_smile: After I logged off, I thought, “Maybe I was a little rough on the kid.” :smiley: Glad to see you can take it.

Anyway, all the various steroid pills and sprays (cortizone, prednisone, etc.) will do is temporarily suppress your itching. They don’t really address the underlying allergic reaction. Only finding out what’s causing it will do that.

I strongly disagree with the doctor who told you you may be on pills the rest of your life–I’d sure like to know exactly what kind of doctor he is. General Practice? Dermatology? Allergist? Generally speaking, a good doctor will want you OFF the pills. For one thing, it’s very bad for your body to be on steroids long-term.

So if you don’t want to be on pills the rest of your life (and trust me, you don’t) you just have to bite the bullet for a couple of months, maybe three months, tops, and eat the most boring food in the world.

Yes, the elimination diet is nutritionally adequate. You’ve got your food pyramid right there. Protein (meat), carbs in the form of rice or oats, fruit and veg for roughage and vitamins. Contrary to popular report, you don’t need booze to survive. :smiley:

And yeah, I’ve been through this, as have people in my family. The key to survival is “Tupperware”. Bring food to work in Tupperwares. Make big pots of chicken and rice ahead of time and freeze it in little Tupperware. Investigate Oriental food, since you’re going to be eating rice at practically every meal anyway. (Oatmeal doesn’t really go with pot roast.)

But remember–no preservatives or additives, so it’ll have to be cook from scratch. Read the labels on the ingredients you’re buying to make sure there aren’t any no-nos. It’s worthwhile to point out that all American brands of soy sauce, including Kikkoman and La Choy, have wheat in them. You’ll have to get real creative with the onion and garlic. Watch out for corn syrup solids hiding in places like bouillion cubes. Use canned chicken broth instead.

And you’re wondering if it’s really necessary to be that hard-nosed–how much can the corn syrup solids in a single beef bouillion cube hurt? Well, when you’re on an elimination diet for allergies, even a single speck of the allergen can give you a reaction. After you’ve been on the diet for a week or two, your system has been more or less purged of the allergen, so your body is then sensitized to it, and smaller amounts than before will set off a reaction.

The thing that drove me crazy was the lack of junk food and munchies. Virtually all junk food is either corn or wheat-based. You can get those little rice crackers (Kroger sells them by the raisins), and also rice cakes. You can eat potato chips, but no Fritos, pretzels, or Doritos. Pizza has wheat and tomatoes. No pizza for a while. Kentucky Fried Chicken is very dicey–the breading has wheat, and you’d have to get every speck of breading off. Too difficult, you don’t want to screw up your results.

There are tons of websites for wheat-free and corn-free baking. Oatmeal cookies, etc. Remember–no eggs.

Learn to READ LABELS, especially if you turn out to be allergic to something hysterically common like dairy. Like I said, virtually all factory baked goods like bread, hot dog buns, Hostess cupcakes, cookies, have skim milk in them.

Make sure the rice cakes you’re buying are really just rice–some of them are actually “popcorn rice” cakes. No corn.

Did I mention the importance of reading labels? :smiley:

This is not something you can do on a (I’m assuming) bachelor/fast food/“open a can of Beefaroni for lunch” lifestyle. This takes a LOT of work, but I think you’ll be happy with the results. No more itching, no more hospital visits, no more pills.

And may I mention in passing, “Thank God for the FDA and the Truth in Labeling Act.” One of the few instances of federal interference in the private sector that has my 100% “thumbs up”. :smiley:

And, of course, potatoes are a carbohydrate. [smacks self in forehead] Duh. I’m hopeless.

You have my permission to eat your pot roast with potatoes instead of rice or oatmeal.


Retitled and bumped at the request of the OP.

(Thanks, manny!)


Again, thanks for the reply. A ton of useful info in here. I woulda mailed you, 'cept: 1) can’t, and 2) others may benefit from this thread.

Yup. The only reason I got the cortizone spray was to soothe my itching…it was driving me mad. I know it’s not a long-term solution, though. Also, the doc told me that I may be on Zantac/Zyrtec (H1 and H2 blockers) forever…not prednisone or some other steroid. I’ve read horror stories about long term steroid use.

Heh heh. That’s something I’ve never done in the past but have learned to do in the past 4 months.

I’m back on a regular schedule of pills again and have been eating (mostly) foods that I prepare myself. Thank God for Tupperware! :slight_smile: However, I won’t start the true “elimination diet” for a couple weeks. I’ve got a vacation coming up and it won’t be as easy to control what I eat. So, I don’t want to put a lot of time/effort into a strict diet that will be ruined for 5 days in mid-March.

When I do start the diet, I plan to stick to it for about 3 weeks. Then, I’m not sure whether I’ll 1) stop the pills and stay on the diet, or 2) stay on the pills and start adding a new food item a week. Any suggestions?

Again…thanks for all the info! I’ll keep ya posted. :slight_smile:

If there is no Uticaria.com maybe you can start one?

Otherwise, try webmd.com they have tons of info on all medical subjects presently factually & sort of gentle but to the point.

Duck Duck Goose said:

Watch out for corn syrup solids hiding in places like bouillion cubes. Use canned chicken broth instead.

I’d go one step further and eliminate the store-bought bullion/broth altogether. These usually contain a lot of MSG, which is made from starch, corn sugar (or molasses), and is manufactured by fermentation. As well, MSG is found in canned soups, processed meats, flavoured potato chips, soy sauce, even chewing gum so stay away from those as well.

Hidden Sources of MSG

(In 1995, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) presented a report that found that an unknown percentage of the population may react to MSG, so in an elimation diet I’d chuck out anything that would contain it).


If you need chicken stock, make it the old fashioned way: boil the crap out of a chicken carcass. :slight_smile: With some salt and thyme and a bit of garlic, it’s even better.

I’m not sure if potatoes are that great of an idea, either. I happen to be violently allergic to them, and was on an elimination diet (some 30ish years ago) when I was a toddler. As my parents tell, the diet amounted to oats, rice, chicken, applesauce, cooked peaches and pears, goat’s milk and maybe one or two other things.

The problem with potatoes is that along with tomatoes, eggplant and the various peppers (meaning bell, jalapeno, etc. - not including peppercorns, which are botanically unrelated), they’re part of the nightshade family, and are unusual-but-not-unheard-of allergens. For me, I can eat the other three provided they’re cooked or very, very ripe (usually that means vine-ripened). Potatoes I have to avoid in all forms (even cooking potatoes - the steam gives me asthma).

Happily, sweet potatoes, yams, batatas, and other roots are unrelated. Terra Chips are my friends.

Food allergies are a bitch and a half. Also, be aware that they can change over time. I was allergic to almost everything as a toddler, outgrew all but potatoes by the time I was about six, and then went through phases of allergies to raw bananas, raw pineapple, and avocado (all over, thankfully).

Ok, I have a hive question of my own if we have all the hive experts here and everything. IN the last 4 years or so i have tended to break out in hives frequently–almost daily. It varies from a light sprinkling across my arms to having every inch of skin (including my scalp and the edges of my ears) inflamed and itching. They usually go away quickly–half an hour or so—though sometimes red sploches linger under my skin for longer. I have mentioned this to several doctors, and they have mostly shrugged, and offered to write a prescription for an antihistimine.

There are patterns to the hive attacks–changes in temprature always do it (when I come out of the shower I ALWAYS get bad hives, or when the car air conditionar is blowing on a particular spot of skin, that spot will break out) Laundry detergent appplied directly to my skin does it, strong emotions, etc. I have never tried an elemination diet.

My question is: do I have to do something about this? Is this potentialy indicitive of some sort of larger health problem? I do keep antihistimenes in the house on the off chance that I have a really bad attack where my breathing becomes diffucult or something, but I have never taken them, mostly because they knock me out for 12 hours and it is a huge inconveniance. If it turns out I have a wheat allergy or something like that, I don’t think that the hives are enough of a bother to be worth that profound of an ajustment in my lifestyle. They are no where near as bad as those described in the OP.


DDG, you rock! Always willing to help with those google searches. Wish I had half your knowledge and patience!


Another place to look is at any medications, vitamins, etc. you might be taking. I had terrible hives that would not ease up. Most days I ended up going home from work just after lunch. By process of elimination we (my doctor and I) discovered that I was allergic to the dye in a medication I was taking. I also can’t have novacaine, lidocaine, and others because of the preservatives in them.

Just my .02 trying to help out.

Knew there was a reason potatoes weren’t on that linked list. Hmm…

For MandaJo:

So you are not alone. Go and read the rest of it; Manny’ll jump my butt if I post the whole thing. :smiley:

Me, I break out in hives at the tail-end of a cold (d) and when the ambient temperature gets over 85[sup]o[/sup] in the summertime (b). (And Chlortrimeton works every time.)

So you are in EXCELLENT company! :smiley:

Great idea!!


So…is it uticaria or uRticaria? The net produces many results for both searches!

BTW…thanks to all for the replies! I’ve been reading, but have not had much time to reply myself.

One week and counting without an outbreak! <fingers crossed>