What Are Hives?

A close-up of my shin (right under my knee) in 2012

A close-up of my shin (right under my knee) in 2012

Hives are something I've heard about since I was little. While it's nothing new to me, I never really researched exactly what it was. My skin has had so many different types of allergic reactions that I figured some were definitely hives at some point.

Turns out, that's exactly what I had above in the photo! There's one quarter sized welt right below my knee.

Hives are also known as wheals or urticaria. About 20% of the population experience hives in their lifetime - women are twice as likely. So what are they exactly? Hives are a skin reaction that result in spongy welts that can be red, white or the color of your skin. It can spread and is capable of happening pretty much anywhere on your body. Hives do tend to avoid the palms of hands and the bottoms of feet, though.

This skin reaction can be:

  • itchy
  • painful
  • different shapes:
    • round
    • ring shaped
    • random shape
  • different sizes from a couple spots to large blotches
  • fading in and out throughout the reaction

"About Health" does a great job explaining exactly why hives occur:

Hives result from dilation of capillaries allowing fluid to leak out into the surrounding tissue, the epidermis. They resolve when the body absorbs this fluid. The border of a hive is described as polycyclic, or made up of many circles, and changes as fluid leaks out and then is absorbed. Pressing on a hive causes the skin to blanch distinguishing it from a bruise or papule.
— http://dermatology.about.com/cs/hives/a/hives.htm

The thing about hives is that they can happen for a large variety of reasons... that's exactly why some people never figure out the root of their problem. I believe that any hives I've had are a result of allergies or water. I have so many skin allergies that it only makes sense that some of my hives have been from allergies. And I often get hives fresh out of the shower. There must be something about what's in the water or the heat of the water.

Possible causes/triggers of hives:

  • allergies (the most common)
  • thyroid disease
  • lupus
  • hay fever
  • pain medication
  • infection
  • scratching
  • excessive heat or cold
  • stress
  • sunlight
  • exercise / sweating
  • animal dander
  • pollen
  • alcohol
  • food
  • preservatives / additives
  • prolonged pressure on the skin
  • high humidity


  • antihistamine
  • avoiding hot water
  • avoid aggravating the affected area
  • a doctor may prescribe an epi-pen or steroids

While in most cases, hives disappear on their own and are considered harmless, they can also be a sign of something more serious. If your throat starts to swell or the hives last more than 48 hours, it's advised that you seek a doctor.








ASK THE ALLERGISTA: Know of any condoms without propylene glycol?


Are there any condoms that are made without propylene glycol. It seems the ingredients are not listed but my research shows that many have lubricants that include the propylene glycol.

Thank you for any help you can get for me as I have been hitting a wall in my search.



This is actually a very good question! The thing that I don't understand about condoms is... where are the ingredient labels? Condoms touch VERY important and sensitive parts of our bodies. I believe that warrants an ingredient label, but apparently the powers that be disagree.

Personally, we use Trojan's condoms - NOT the Fire & Ice kind or any specialty line from their company... just the regular condoms. Do not buy the Fire & Ice kind - read why here. The chemicals in them are INSANE.  I did a little poking around (no pun intended) and found a brand that while they don't give you an ingredient list, they do tell you what material the condom is made of (Polyisoprene) and also what the lubricant is made of (Polydimethylsiloxane).

The brand is "Lifestyles" and this line is called "Skyn". I looked for any other information regarding their ingredients and found:

SKYN® condoms do NOT contain glycerin, casein or other animal-based ingredients.

No preservatives and parabens are used in SKYN® condoms.
— http://www.skyncondoms.com/us/skyn-life/faqs

You can buy them here!

I hope this helps. Good luck and have fun!


The Allergista

Posted on September 17, 2014 .

The Methods I've Taken to Diminish My Eczema

When it comes to my eczema... I've come a LONG way. Check it out:

Before I had a handle on how to handle my two types of eczema, I had a lot of itchy, sleepless nights... as you can probably guess from the photo. Two types of eczema, you ask? There are several different kinds, but I have:

  • atopic dermatitis
  • allergic contact dermatitis

Atopic is a reoccurring type of eczema that, for lack of better words, happens "just because" (as my doctor put it). Atopic eczema tends to occur in the same places and can be terribly annoying as all you can do for it is treat it. There's not much you can do in the way of prevention.

Allergic contact dermatitis is exactly what it sounds like: your skin has an allergic reaction upon contact with your allergen. With this type of eczema, you can prevent it by avoiding your allergens (or by taking steroids for the rest of your life, which I refuse to do). Avoiding certain allergens can be life changing. Personally, I have 24 allergens and avoid everything from certain soap to metal to synthetic fabrics and food. It has been 100% life changing for me.

Along the way, there are a lot of different things I've had to do in order to create an environment where I'm healthy and as eczema free as I can be WITHOUT having to be on Prednisone (the steroid I was referring to).

Here are the methods I've found useful in combating my eczema:

  • Keep nails short to prevent scratching while sleeping
  • Cool or lukewarm showers to reduce inflammation and itching
  • No dairy! I'm lactose intolerant and usually causes my skin to flare up
  • No coffee! Aside from the fact that the ingredients are rarely listed, the caffeine spikes and lows aren't good for your body. My skin starts to flare up (breaks out in bubbles, gets red & itchy) if I'm drinking a lot of coffee.
  • Reducing stress. If I have eczema on my skin and I end up getting stressed out, it causes my existing eczema to get worse. Researching and practicing meditation taught my how to keep myself calm (most of the time, ha).
  • Like I said before, avoiding my allergens. It's of the utmost importance. This means that I've:
    • purchased back scratchers so that I can pet our cat without touching him
    • had my desks at work covered in glass so my arms don't react to the polyester resin in the laminate tops
    • switched over to a 100% cotton wardrobe
    • avoided a lot of preservatives/processed food
    • been carrying around a bandanna with me to touch things in public that I may be allergic to such as doorknobs
    • had to say no to most of the food people bring into work to share with everybody like donuts, pizza, etc. 
  • Taking extra time to plan out my vacations. I have to think ahead and plan well so that I'm prepared for whatever it is that I may have to come into contact with
  • Purchased an air purifier for every room of the house. Airborne allergens can settle on your skin, especially if there's a lot of it such as with a cat, so this is definitely something to think about if you haven't done it yet.
  • Installed a shower head with a built-in filter. We have one from gaiam.com. There's all sorts of stuff in your pipes and possibly your water. Since you're in the shower once, maybe twice a day, this is a good idea for sure.
  • Only moisturize with cream, not lotion. Cream creates a barrier between your skin and the world. Lotion soaks right in (and probably has a lot of weird fragrances and chemicals in it).
  • Calendula cream. This is an interesting one. I bought it from from The Eczema Company and it seemed to help calm my skin down. Unfortunately, the kind they carried began adding propylene glycol to their cream, so they pulled it from their shop. Calendula is a flower, so I intend on checking out some other calendula options. 
  • I'm still in the air about oil pulling. I tried it once and it seemed like it worked, but I'd like to try it again to see if that's really the case!
  • Reading every ingredient label. And remembering that there are hidden ingredients. I keep out a keen eye for my allergens and if something is making me sick, it's time to investigate for any hidden ingredients. This happened to me with propylene glycol being hidden in my vitamins in the form of modified food starch. Yeah. Crazy.

What methods have worked for YOU?

ALLERGY STORIES: Asthma/Allergies and Lung disease

I was tested and found to be allergic to a very long list of food and environmental elements, including almost all trees and grasses. Before that I was diagnosed with and was being treated for asthma and nasal allergies. Four years ago I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and I strongly believe there is a connection. I believe my lung disease may have been caused by undiagnosed food allergies causing acid reflux which was aspirated into my lungs(just my opinion). Right now I am being seen by Duke Medical Center as a candidate for a lung transplant. I am on supplemental oxygen. As I type this I have a red blotchy rash and have no idea want caused it as it is so hard to pinpoint sometimes because even though I avoid known allergens, I have had reactions to foods that I tested negative for. I wish I had tested sooner but I always blamed the shortness of breathe that happened sometimes after meals on asthma. I feel like I am rambling, but it just feels good to share with someone who understands.

You've rendered me almost speechless... I'm heartbroken for you. I can't imagine what you're going through. Please don't feel like you're rambling! This is exactly what the "Share Your Story" feature is here for :-)

Plus, a lung transplant is NO small deal. Wow... I see what you're saying, though. I think there could definitely be something to your theory. Allergens can wreak havoc on our bodies in ways that most people wouldn't even think of. 

Hang in there and keep doing things for yourself that help you feel better (like sharing your story) or having a friend over for lunch. It's important to keep your spirit up!

Please check back in after your transplant and let us know how you're doing!


Click here to submit your story!

For more eczema stories, click here.

For more allergy stories, click here.

Voila! The blog is now on a new platform!


This is officially my very first blog post on the new platform. The blog used to be on Wordpress, but I've made the switch over to Squarespace.

Why, you ask?

Without revealing tooooo much about my future plans, Squarespace allows you to really take your blog to the next level. Squarespace is essentially more of a website platform than a blog platform. I'd describe it as a website builder with the added plus of an incorporated blog and more. Squarespace gives a lot more freedom. Wordpress had a lot of rules and therefore less freedom. 

Don't get me wrong: I loved Wordpress. We had a lot of great, great times together and it's a wonderful blogging platform. It was simply time for me to move on.

I've made connections with so many awesome people through this blog... people suffering from similar issues, issues worse than mine and the newbies to the allergy and eczema "scene", if you will. It's been a two way street full of valuable information and I'm so very grateful for that. This blog is something that I hold near and dear to me.

So, thank you for hanging out and being part of the community. You rock! And I'm VERY excited for the new things to come :-) 

Over the next couple weeks, I will be tweaking and fixing things on the site, so I thank you in advance for your patience! Websites are no small project, so it just takes a little time.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments on the new site, please leave them below!