What the hell happened to me yesterday? [Allergy? Allergy-like?]

Okay, I will ask my doctor about this, as soon as I get one, which will be soon… but in the meantime I’m curious if any Dopers have a clue about what this might have been.

At work yesterday, something really bizarre happened to me.

It began as an itchy forehead. I said, “Aagh! What’s going on with my face?” and a co-worker walked over, said “Something bit you, don’t scratch it.” I tried to ignore it, but it was really itchy.

Within a moment, UPS arrived with a COD package for me. Although I was increasingly uncomfortable, I pretended like nothing was up and dealt with that, although I observed the UPS guy looking at me with an odd look.

I got back to work, and now my face, ears, and scalp were positively on fire. I headed to the bathroom, and by the time I got there, the itch had spread to my armpits, legs, and genital area. When I looked in the mirror, my skin was very red and covered in raised white welts that looked like mosquito bites (except without the “bite” in the center.) Over my forehead, mostly, but also on my cheeks, nose, over the eyes, etc. My belly was bright pink, and when I lifted my shirt I found similar welts on my back, under the armpits, on my chest, and lots on my arms. The itch was unbearable. I applied cold water and then ran and took an antihistamine.

The itching got worse and worse for a few minutes, and then my lips and tongue began to feel slightly strange – a little swollen and sensitive. (My breathing got a bit ragged, too – but I think that might just have been a stress reaction.) Maybe ten minutes had passed, during which time I had attempted to ignore things and get back to work. (Several people were off for various reasons that day.)

It was clear that I couldn’t work, though. I was just dancing around going “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!” When I noticed my lips and tongue feeling weird, I ran straight for my manager to beg off, thinking that he was going to be pissed. (He’d already grumbled quite a bit about the absence of two others who had serious family emergencies to attend to.) His face registered shock and alarm when I was still about twenty feet from him, though – and he immediately arranged for someone to take me to the nearest clinic. After I was dropped off, though, I walked up to the door and found a notice explaining that it was closed for the day – so I jumped on the bus and started making for the one that was close to my house, clutching my phone, thinking I might have to call 911 or something crazy.

I spent a half-hour in transit, though – and by the time I arrived at the train station nearest my house, the welts had gone down, leaving little red dots in their place. My face was still red and had a prickly heat to it, and there was a bit of a rash on my arms, but I was already feeling much better, and a bit sheepish about bailing from work. (This was about forty-five minutes after my face began to itch.)

I was very tired, though – and soon after I got home, I crawled into bed and dozed until my friend came home. By then, the redness was pretty much gone.

All that remains today is very subtle little red spots, most visible in areas that never get exposed to the sun.

What the hell was that?

I’ve never had any allergies that manifested that way – just the usual dust/pollen/dander allergies. I didn’t eat anything unreasonably exotic or suspect. I had eaten a single Krispy Kreme donut an hour or two before (the first time for that, but I doubt there’s anything in there I haven’t eaten in other foods millions of times) and a banana fifteen or twenty minutes before the whole thing started. As for environmental factors – the area I was working in was a bit dusty, but not too bad – and I was handling packaged garments received from China. I didn’t notice any exotic insects swarming over my body at any point.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

No, but Holy Shit!

Your co-worker said he thought something bit you…did you ask him why he said that? (I’m wondering if this whole thing started with a single specific insect bite he noticed).
IANAD but the rest of it sounds like a severe allergic reaction.

The individual welts looked just like insect bites, without the puncture in the center. When he said that, I had directed his attention to the one spot that was itching – which was soon joined by many others exactly like it, all over. I don’t think it was a bite – it just looked like one at a glance.

IANAD, nor do I play one on TV, but that sounds like a SEVERE allergic reaction. Your ragged breathing was likely not “stress related” at all, but a symptom of anaphylactic shock. Get an epi pen from your new doc when you get one. ASAP.

Regards, Cheez_Whia, who is allergic to bees.

I had almost the same rash, except it wasn’t systemic and, two weeks out, I still have it (although far, far, far less badly). After stumping the company nurse and two doctors, we finally figured out that it was delayed reaction to poison-oak.

That doesn’t sound quite the same though, but I certainly commiserate. Maybe a food allergy?

Reaction to something in the garments – moth repellant, pesticides, sizing, or something like that?

I had a really similar (though less severe) reaction to a couple of glasses of white wine one Christmas several years ago (at least, as far as I could narrow it down). Really warm, flush feeling with strong itching and small welts/hives.

It’s never happened since, though.

This episode sounds like an anaphylactic reaction or something very close to it. Hives and intense itching as well as respiratory difficulties are common symptoms. The reactions could be part of a response to an agent you encountered before, and which your system now sees as threatening. The thing to do is see a doctor, who may want to conduct allergy testing to see if any offending agent can be isolated. If this is a matter of workplace exposure, you obviously want to avoid coming in contact with whatever the trigger was in the future - as well as having an epi-pen or similar device if your doctor thinks it advisable.

I’m wondering about the same thing. Lots of possibilities, though.

Oh, and ditto on Cheez Whia’s ASAP advice. As in being evaluated by an MD pronto to get a diagnosis and if required, treatment.

Full-blown anaphylactic shock kills people.

My kid had something like that when he was 6 or 7. He’d just finished a baseball game and was drinking some kind of red juice when welts started appearing all over him, it looked like he was turning into a road map. It was just that fast, between the time we got into the car and before we got home. They itched, but mostly he was panicked because he was turning paisley, and he was very upset. I called his doctor (naturally it was after-hours) and she said to give him an antihistamine and if he started having trouble breathing to get to an emergency room. I’m thinking she asked me a few questions while we were on the phone, but it definitely sounded like an allergic reaction and by then, while we were still on the phone, and before I’d even started looking for antihistamines, it was already going away as fast as it came.

It never happened again (well, he’s 10 now, and it hasn’t happened again). But the kid wouldn’t drink or eat anything red for years.

This is not comforting, but at least you’re not alone:

emedicine link

"Hives and angioedema are reactions of the skin to the release of histamine or other chemicals into the blood. This is often, although not always, due to an allergic reaction.

There are many causes of hives and angioedema. At least half the time, the specific cause cannot be determined.
Some of the more common triggers are the following:

Infections such as viral illnesses, especially in children
Allergies to food, medications, cosmetics, soaps, and detergents
Insect stings and bites
Transfusions of blood or blood products
Emotional and physical stress
Physical agents such as sunlight, heat, cold, water, or pressure"

Was your forehead in the sun at some point in the preceding couple of hours?

I had a very similar thing when I was about 16.

I came home from a day out, got itchy then rashy. My mother got me to have a bicarb bath - cut the itch but the rash continued to worsen. Our doctor came, gave me an antihistamine and put me to bed. I awoke in the middle of the night, collapsed on the way to the toilet and ended up in hospital as my tongue was swelling. After IV drugs I went home in the morning.

They figured an allergy to either an insect bite (I thought I had been bitten on the foot), or an ingredient in a cigarette I had smoked. No investigations were ever done and it never happened again. Apparently it is common to not bother looking for the cause of a one off reaction as they are hard to find and easy to treat.


This is exactly what happens to my husband when he is bitten by an ant. The response is more severe when he’s bitten near the face and/or when the bite occurs on thin skin.

So far, Benadryl and time have been effective treatment, but we really are idiots for not having an epi-pen by now.

I’d suggest going to an allergist as soon as is convenient.

Thanks for all the information, folks – it’s been enormously helpful.

I’m happy to hear that this is often a one-off thing. I’ll be much less freaked-out while I’m waiting to see if an allergist can find anything specific I ought to avoid.

I’m also glad to see anxiety and a “sense of impending doom” listed under symptoms. Heh. I thought I was just being a sissy. :smiley:

As it happens, I’d just come in from a short break during which I’d enjoyed the sun on my face – the day before had been ominously overcast.

…but I always do that. What could make me suddenly go all Nosferatu in my relationship with the sun? :smiley:

Maybe an insect isn’t the thing that bit you…

Naw, the only bipedal creature that has bitten me recently spends enough time in front of a mirror to be ruled out as a suspect.