Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Apparently I'm allergic to stress

What do bees and the writer of this blog have in common?


The background: Just over two years ago, I was taking a shower and decided to use a product my wife had purchased; its primary ingredients were grape vines and other parts of this plant. When I got out of the shower, I looked in the mirror and decided that my face looked redder than usual. A little later, it felt hot and swollen. I went to the doctor a couple days later, a bit concerned since the red spots had spread all over my entire body. Two courses of steroids later, it was cleared up, but my doctor and I decided that maybe I should avoid grape products.

Now it just so happens that this outbreak occurred within a week or two of the following events: final grades and comments were due, my last week as a teacher at my old school, closing on the house we were selling, and moving to Canada. I ignored the possible correlation with my stress level.

To be fair to the grape-allergy theory, I had some "gastrointestinal distress" the couple of times I ingested something with grape in it, but no further outbreaks of hives. At least, not when I could track down anything with grape in it. There were two more incidents during my first year of grad school, but I couldn't discover anything grape-related. Again, head in the sand about stress.

In the past few months, I have slowly added small amounts of grape products back into my diet. Balsamic vinegar in salad dressings. Wine-based sauces. The occasional raisin in a baked good. So far so good.

A few days ago, my chest started to itch. I wondered if something had bitten me, refused to notice that it was spreading a bit. Yesterday, I started to admit that this looked like hives, that it was covering more than the initial spot, that my thighs--when viewed from the right angle in the shower--might have a few dots themselves.

This morning, denial was no longer an option. After a painful shower--I've scratched a little--I dug out some cortico-steroid cream we happened to have here (originally for Scooter, but my doctor had OK'ed me using it before). That went on my chest and down onto my breasts. I could see the red undertone starting on my arms, the worst of it in the crooks of my elbow. This afternoon, I bought some caladryl spray and am now pink.

Trillian confirmed for me this evening that the hives have started to recede. I could try to make the case that my interventions have had their intended effect, but Trillian would argue otherwise. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we'll be writing an offer tomorrow. Or that even if this house falls through, we saw two others today that we'd be willing to make offers on. We think we can get this house down into our range; we know we can get our third choice.

Weight lifted, hives receding.

It is seriously time to take up yoga again.


cinnamon gurl said...

Ooh, how exciting!! (Not the rash but the house hunting) Good luck with the negotiations!

Laural Dawn said...

Good luck with the house! I hope it goes through.
I totally relate about the rash. Is it possible that the stress makes you less immune to other things. I know when I'm under stress my allergies get worse - like usually I can take a Claritin and move on, but if I'm stressed as well I end up needing nasal sprays, etc. It's a direct correlation to stress for me. (and so much fun)
I also have nightmares.
Apparently I don't verbalize it enough (even though I talk a lot!)

Mouse said...

I do think that there's probably some allergy/sensitivity issues mixed in, because I don't break out in hives every time I'm stressed. One other connection I've seen is with my cycle--I'm more likely to get the rash during my period, so maybe there's a hormone component too. Whatever it is, there are too many factors to predict it accurately.

Lisa b said...

I have the same thing happen with stress. Its not always a rash though. My body likes to come up with new physical manifestations for stress every few years. This year going half-blind was a new twist.
I am sure for you it is also a few factors.
Good luck with the house!

Tash35 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tash35 said...

I thought I was the only one that noticed that every time I get under extreme stress, I break out in hives. Unfortunately, you are not alone. However, it's nice to know that I'm not crazy for thinking so. My friends and family look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them that I'm allergic to stress. Yet, considering the extreme stress that I've been under my entire life (the death of my sister, mother, father, and my own child) and the hives, which followed thereafter; it is the only logical explanation I could come to.

Good luck. I hope that you will not experience a life time of discomfort as I have. This has been going on for the last 15 years for me. :(

Rainbow Star said...

I'm allergic to stress I forgot what the doctor called it but he said nothing I can do for it other than trying to not get stressed out. For the most part now that I know what it is I hardly break out because I avoid drama... When I first had it, it got so bad that I was covered head to toe for 12 hours none stop. Really sucks, try to meditate or do yoga is all you can really do. Lotion helps ease the itch but does nothing to the hives.

Anonymous said...

I think I just realized that I break out into hives when I'm under stress. For the past two months I've been getting these horrible, gigantic hives. At first I thought it was food allergies, but couldnt relate it to anything. It started last semester during finals, and a week before a really major surgery. Continued throughout post-op. Appear randomly during my weeks ( which can be very stressful)... started up again before graduate school interview.. and now during probably one of the most stressful weeks in a long while.

This makes me sad.

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