So I have sort of alluded to some dietary changes that I have had to make and how I had to be careful in order to make Thanksgiving "safe" for me to eat this year. I suppose it is time I share in more detail my struggle.
Around May of this year I started noticing little bumps around my elbows. I thought that I was getting spider bites, because it is common for people in the area of the town we were living to have trouble with spiders and the bumps were small. But then the bumps kept appearing, and constantly in new areas. We travelled to our Hometown on Memorial Day weekend and I saw my general practitioner for a yearly checkup. I showed him the bumps and explained that they "come and go. They move around and change colors and it seems like they don't last long, but there were often new ones springing up." He advised that I should see a dermatologist to diagnose the skin condition, but with some clever internet sleuthing I self-diagnosed with hives in a matter of hours, instead of waiting seven months for an appointment with a dermatologist.
And I started self-medicating with a little bit of anti-itch creams and low dosage antihistamines. This worked well and good for a while, except for my occasional bouts of irritability prior to bigger breakouts and sometimes pretty severe itching. But then one night in the middle of June, I woke up and went into the bathroom feeling awfully strange. I turned on the light and standing at the counter I thought that I looked strange. I went and got my glasses from my bedroom and returned to the mirror. My lip was swollen so much that I hardly recognized myself.
So I woke my husband up and asked him to take a picture and email it to me from his phone. He did and I forwarded it to my general practitioner (who regularly emails and texts patients at 3 in the morning--he is awesome by the way). I was quite alarmed at my appearance so, of course, I did as any normal hypochondriac female in the twenty-first century would do: I googled it. After reading a few things, I debated with myself for a few minutes about whether I should wake my husband up to tell him I was going to go to the Emergency Room, at the direction of the interwebs, and decided I probably should.
He wanted to come with me, being the modern day night in shining Tundra that he is, so off we went. He was prepared for an eight hour wait, but we were triaged almost immediately, because they were concerned about keeping my airway open. I was given a quick round of corticosteriods, antihistamines and H2 blockers to stop the allergic reaction I was having. The doctors quizzed me about the time period I had been having bumps, my diet, my soaps, etc., and finally told me that I have angioedema (or swelling in the face) and I probably have idiopathic urticaria (or as we common folk say, hives from an unknown cause). They told me I could keep track of everything I came into contact with and try to determine the cause, but they said I might not ever know and that the swelling would likely not return and that the hives would eventually go away.
My general practitioner set me up with prescriptions for an EPIPEN, antihistamines, and an H2 blocker for the histamine response from my stomach. This combination of drugs made the bumps totally manageable for the rest of June, all of July, and most of August. A few would appear during the night, but I regularly cleared up during the day. So I slacked off about keeping track of everything I came into contact with, and just tried to eliminate common allergens from my diet, from my washing liquids (of all forms) and through other sources. I was perfectly happy with this mode of operation, because the hives were pretty well controlled and because I had heard that hives often last for several months at a time. But time continued on and unfortunately for me, the medicines and my lifestyle changes did not stop the bumps from reoccurring in the night.