What happened to me? (Hives question)

Last weekend I attended a science-fiction convention down in Tucson. I arrived about 7pm, checked in the hotel, and attended various functions until about two in the morning, and stumbled off to bed. Next morning I get up, eat the hotel-supplied breakfast, nibble some con-suite stuff for a light lunch, and slip away to Carl’s Jr. for dinner about six then, finally, back to the room about eleven. There I downed half the liter bottle of water the hotel gives you (The reason for all this detail will be apparent in a moment.)

After reading a bit, about a half-hour later I climb into the bed and start to doze off. I get this itchy spot on my thigh and, in that twilight area between sleep and awake, I can feel a welt and am wondering where a mosquito came from, as chilly as it was. Then another spot starts itching, and another. Fully awake by now, I snap on the light and throw back the covers. Holy cow! From knees to abdomen I was nothing but flushed skin and welts! I leap out of the bed and examine myself in the mirror. The blotches and welts are on both arms down to the wrists and from the shoulders up I’m entirely flushed (No welts, though). About then, my tongue starts swelling. Obviously, I’m having a reaction to something, but what? I’ve never experienced anything this severe before. Could something I ate six hours previously be flaring up in just a few minutes? How could a sealed bottle of plain ol’ water cause it? I was pretty sure it was the same sheets as the night before on the bed. There hadn’t been any ahem activities that would have made the maid change them after that first night. Anyway, whoever heard of a hotel poisoning their guests with bedding?

I took a shower to rinse things off just in case it was some sort of contact reaction, stayed up about a half hour to make sure things weren’t getting worse (like suffocating). The itching was annoying but not what you could call unbearable, and my tongue felt all weird. Then I slept on the couch rather than climb back into that bed. I poured the rest of the water down the drain, too. Did not feel like experimenting. The next morning the flushing and welts were all gone – except the spot on my thigh I’d been scratching – and my tongue was mostly back to normal, completely so in another hour after I got up.

So what caused it? Anything like that happen to any of you. This has me weirded out.


I don’t have an answer to your hives, but I’m very interested in the responses you get. My 14 year old daughter has randomly broken out in hives for three or four years now. Same situation, we have never found a common thread in the different times she’s broken out. As a precaution I always have her shower. Sometimes we’ll pull the bedding off her bed and wash it up, if it’s been a while. I wish I could find out what’s causing them.


What did you eat for dinner? It definitely sounds like it could be hives. Perhaps this will help: http://www.foodallergy.org/allergens.html

A chiliburger at Carl’s Jr., nothing I hadn’t eaten before. That was between six and six-thirty and the attack commenced six hours later. Would it take that long for a reaction to take place? I’m no expert on this stuff.


Enright3, have you tried keeping a detailed allergy journal? I’d recommend that you try writing down every food, spice, cleaning product, beauty product, animal, weather condition, etc. that she came in contact with for the entire day prior to her symptoms, focusing a little more on the time just before the symptoms appeared. After several such incidents, a pattern of some sort should become more apparent. If not, allergy testing can usually help.

It’s more common for food allergies to show up shortly after eating the food, and usually within a couple of hours, so that makes it a little less likely to be your chili-burger. And unless the bottled water was really moldy or something, I really don’t think it was that either.

Perhaps you got bitten by an insect (or spider?) on your thigh? It seems to me that is the most likely cause. If it was an insect, you should be careful, because another bite like that could cause anaphylactic shock next time it happens.

#1. The next time your tongue swells, GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM! Especially if you are alone… in a strange town… where no one expects to hear from you for hours and hours and hours. I have first hand knowledge that, when things to turn ugly, 911 operators have trouble understanding you when your mouth and throat close off fast. OK? Good. Moving on…

If you don’t have a recognized trigger or have never had hives before, it could have been anything that caused the reaction; fever, insects, food, cleaning chemicals, different fabrics, cold, stress, whatever. Your body was over-reacting to something. Since it went away by itself you probably don’t need to worry. But since this attack was severe (and it was if your tongue swelled!) call your doctor and see if he can do an allergen test on you. It’s annoying, lots and lots of little pricks on your back or upper arm as the doc tries to trigger a hive reaction in you. If he finds something, good! You know to stay away from the “trigger”. If he doesn’t, well at least you tried.

Oh and the hive that you scratched? A Hive is like a bubble of histamine under your skin. Scratching it will spread the histamine around making it itch more and last longer.

Good website for information

IANAD, but I’ve had chronic unrelieved hives of no known trigger for the past five years. I know more about antihistamines than you will ever want to know.

Just promise that next time your tongue swells, you’ll go to the doctor for a nice injection. OK?

Along the lines of what DeVena said, I’m considering the climate you were in. It’s possible that being in the dryer climate made your skin/body more vulnerable. It may have been that by the second night, you were dry enough to react to something that otherwise wouldn’t trigger a big response.

There isn’t that much difference in climate between Mesa and Tucson. It’s about 800 feet higher there so the air would have less actual moisture for the same percent humidity. Anyway, we’re out of the hot months now, and it was overcast and a bit rainy the whole weekend – no extremes.

And DeVena, That’s why I stayed up as late as I did – making sure it had peaked and wasn’t getting any worse. I had things to do the next day and couldn’t feature hanging around ER For four or five hours. Had the situation warranted it, though, I would have been there quick, you betcha.


I’ve had this on and off for several years. I can usually sense it coming on, but I’ve never found a common cause. If I catch it early enough with anti-histamines I can prevent the hives.

The allergist I went to tried the usual things in my test, but nothing triggered them. I can go for months without an attack then get 3-4 in a two week span. I keep anti-histamines around and have learned to deal with them, alas.

I’ve never done anything so detailed, for obvious reasons. My daughter is 14. The idea of her keeping a journal isn’t too appealing to her. But I’ll make her do it. Write Damnit, Write! The funny thing is it comes in stages. She’ll break out frequently for two or three weeks, then it’s nothing for a couple of months.

But, even then, be forewarned: you might never find the cause. You could be lucky and discover there’s an allergy to raspberry sauce or something, but it could be almost anything. There are zillions of little plant, animal, and chemical things that could cause these reactions.

I didn’t have it as bad as you’re describing, but damn annoying. The allergist did all sorts of tests, but couldn’t pin-point (pun intended) the precise cause. He basically prescribed antihistimines until we found one that was effective (two tries for me), and whenever I feel an attack coming on, I take it. Taint perfect, but it works.