A year or so after developing asthma out of the blue, something strange started to happen to my skin.
At completely random intervals, I started to notice my skin would be covered in small red hives. I changed washing powder, re-washed everything and it made no difference. I wondered if it was what I was eating, so I made myself eat lots of healthy raw veggies. I loved tomatoes, so they tended to be the main thing I’d eat more of to get rid of these bizarre hives. But oddly, they’d get worse. The hives got bigger and bigger and I was completely covered, head to toe in huge angry red hives.
I remember one day I had a terrible hangover, and as well as the headache, woke up with the worse hives I’d ever had competing for space on my skin. I’d drunk wine plenty of times before – what could possibly be causing this? The hives would gradually reduce and either disappear for a while, or suddenly and inexplicably get large and angry again.
Around this time I had a bit of a headache and reached for some ibuprofen. I hadn’t taken it for a while, but it had always been really effective. Pretty much straight after my eyes got really really itchy. I looked in the mirror to see my eyelids had swollen up – I looked like I’d been in a fight! I went to an out of hours medical centre and was given anti-histamine, and it didn’t take long for the swelling to go down. I was told that I must avoid Non-Steroid Anti Inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as aspirin and ibuprofen and that the reaction is likely to get worse with each anaphylactic incident. Great.
It was easy to avoid aspirin and ibuprofen, but the hives kept randomly appearing, so I was referred to an allergy specialist. It was quickly confirmed that Salicylates were causing the hives. I was shown two lists of food, one contained ALL of my favourite foods like tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, zucchini and watercress. I estimated about 80% of my diet was on the first list she showed me. The second list, wasn’t food I especially cared for. As you can probably guess, the first list was food high in salicylates. The doctor explained salicylate tolerance as being like a bucket. You can have these foods, but one your tolerance bucket is full, you’ll have a reaction. Keep the bucket low and you can enjoy them in moderation. I now rarely eat these foods and thankfully haven’t had any serious hive episodes since. When I notice red marks starting to appear on my skin, I’m really careful to completely avoid foods even containing moderate levels of salicylates, and I find my skin clears up.
Fortunately with the anaphylaxis, it’s easy to avoid and I’ve only had one (all be it very serious) anaphylactic incident since – an experience I don’t intend to repeat.
I’ve read a lot about asthma and allergies happening at the same time (for example an allergic reaction causing asthma symptoms), but anecdotally I think once you become susceptible to asthma, you turn on the switch to allergy susceptibility. I’d love to hear your experience of asthma and allergies. Do you have asthma and allergies? Did they both start happening at a similar time in your life?