You Won’t Believe What This Woman Is Allergic To
Julie Reid was once an active 28-year-old woman with plenty of energy and a love of life. Then, unexpectedly, she developed a condition known as cholinergic urticaria, which essentially causes hypersensitivity to certain stimuli that trigger immune system responses in the form of hive outbreaks. Only about 5 percent of all Americans suffer from the condition, and it typically starts to manifest symptoms during early to mid-adulthood, between 20 and 39 years old.
The stimuli that create the overreaction from the immune system can be anything from exercise, sweat, tears, warm temperatures, and in severe cases, emotional responses. Anxiety and stress are the most common emotional triggers for an outbreak, but extreme excitement or fear can also set off the condition. Julie suffers from a fairly severe form of the condition, and she can’t so much as take a warm shower without triggering an outbreak on just about any area of her skin.
It isn’t known what causes cholinergic urticaria, but some researchers believe it stems from the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The molecule is said to illicit a negative response if released from nerve endings. Cholinergic urticaria might be a symptom of too much acetylcholine in the system. In any case, the outbreaks are usually widespread over a large portion of the body, and they may last up to six weeks, although milder cases dissipate after an hour or so. The condition is technically classified as a chronic illness, since it is inherently systemic.
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The mildest cases of the condition can be treated with OTC medicines, like antihistamines to treat itching and inflammation. Some people see results from topical treatments, but not all will respond to such medication. Moderate to severe cases require more intense treatment, and might involve a prescription of either Atarax or ketotifen, both of which are the standard respective treatments for moderate and severe cases.
Julie Reid has unfortunately not responded well to any of the standard treatments, and her health coverage has recently been denied. She has no way to pay for her hefty medical bills beyond what she is able to fundraise through her cholinergic urticaria awareness website. She went from being a healthy young woman to experiencing agoraphobia, excessive weight gain, and the loss of friendships and other relationships. She is afraid to go outside and experience an outbreak from something in the world. She had to quit her jobs, one of which was at a gym, and another at which she taught dance classes. Her story is carefully documented on her site, and her hope is that someone with the will and means to help her might offer a solution. She is reaching our for some form of help and relief from this debilitating condition that goes largely ignored due to its rarity.
Cholinergic urticaria is a serious condition, and even though it affects a small percentage of the population, those who suffer from it deserve the attention of the medical community just as validly as any other patient. Hopefully stories like Julie’s will reach people who not only understand what she is going through, but who can actually do something to help those like Julie. For every one who speaks out, ten experience the same reaction but say nothing, either because they have no resources, or they accept that the world can’t or won’t help them. That is unacceptable in a civilized society, especially when we have the means to offer help to everyone who needs it. Perhaps, with enough research, a simple cure for the condition can be managed, but until that time we need to support those who suffer from it in every possible way.