Why does my neck get splotchy when I'm hot or excited?
January 28, 2014 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Whenever I have an animated conversation, whether in person or on the phone, my neck flushes bright splotchy red and feels super hot.

This also happens when I concentrate intently on something--like writing, taking an exam, or watching tv. It doesn't seem correlated to nervousness or anxiety, but more to excitement. The rash itself is flat, irregular, not itchy, and subsides on its own within an hour. I get embarrassed when people point this out, people often think that I am having an allergic reaction or have been scratching my neck.
Does anyone know what this is called or what causes it? Is there anything I can do to prevent it?
I uploaded a picture here: http://imgur.com/NG9P4Gd
Thanks in advance for any insight or advice you can offer.

PS My husband thinks this is some kind of "Asian flush," since I do get hot and red when I drink wine. I'm Caucasian, for what it's worth.
posted by bonheur to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have several weird forms of Urticaria and it reminds me of that. In mine, my skin on my face, arms, or wherever will get red just like yours in response to water, friction, or sometimes just if I'm stressed out. It's basically hives - but it's only rarely itchy, sometimes it doesn't itch at all and I don't realize it's even happened to my face or forehead until someone asks me "What happened to you!? Did you hit your head/face/neck?!"

It just started happening about 5 years ago out of the blue. No idea why, and apparently these things can come and go. I don't know what yours is, but it reminds me of this in some ways - perhaps it's connected?
posted by jardinier at 6:57 PM on January 28, 2014

I should say that the "feels super hot" symptom however suggests that you're experiencing classic flushing, which is a symptom you can ask your doctor about to ensure there isn't a hormonal issue involved.
posted by jardinier at 7:05 PM on January 28, 2014

Welcome to the club, as my family told me when it started happening in my late teens. For me it happens when I'm anxious/nervous, excited, or highly focused on a project at work. I have just accepted it after a dozen years and don't even process that it might be happening anymore until someone acknowledges it.

My aunt's doctor told her that she could take benadryl or another anti-histamine for a year and her body would probably develop immunity, but neither of us wanted to take that much medicine for what has become nothing more than an embarrassing reaction over the years. My aunt was nice enough to warn me that it also happens during quite enjoyable activities. Thanks Sue.
posted by icaicaer at 7:20 PM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

My grandmother had this happen to her and it also happens to me. Mostly when I'm stressed, speaking in front of a group or in situations that icaicaer's aunt alluded to. Two different doctors have said there's nothing that can be done.

I'm used to it now, just like I'm used to my knees that crack for no reason. If someone asks me what's wrong with my chest (oh, people) I reply, "Eh, it's just something that happens from time to time."

(I told someone it was Scarlet Fever years ago. I don't recommend that.)
posted by kimberussell at 3:37 AM on January 29, 2014

Ugh, the exact same thing happens to me (also caucasian female). It happens when I'm animated or excited about something as well as when I'm embarrassed, either for myself or (annoyingly) for someone else. The latter especially can be a bit mortifying in itself. Also, any type of alcohol. I have friends who rib me a bit about it - i.e, when I'm particularly passionate about an argument or discussion they'll comment on it... because they know it drives me crazy. I love my friends.

The only thing I can suggest is the incredibly not useful advice of trying not to focus on it, because it tends to make it worse.

Sorry, um... I feel your pain?
posted by unbearablylight at 4:13 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was also going to make the point that icaicaer made obliquely.
posted by yclipse at 4:14 AM on January 29, 2014

The same thing happens to me, and I struggled with it for YEARS. It absolutely gets worse when someone points it out. It seems to happen when my blood pressure goes up because I am excited, embarrassed or nervous.

I asked my doctor about it, and she prescribed a very small dose of klonopin (half a .5 mg pill) that I take any time I know it's going to be an issue.
posted by elvissa at 8:58 AM on January 29, 2014

I get that, too, and I always just thought I had a weird blushing pattern - and was extremely prone to blushing.

For me, it's most annoying at work. I do a lot of speaking in meetings and give a lot of presentations, and every single time I open my mouth, my neck and chest flush. It makes me look nervous, even when I'm not. It probably is some kind of anxiety reflex, since it never happens when I'm talking to a group of friends (unless we're angry at each other!)

Nthing that it gets worse when someone points it out. I never thought of mentioning it to my doctor, but now I'm totally going to - thanks elvissa!
posted by kythuen at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2014

I don't know if it's any consolation but I had the same thing start happening to me in my early 20s, after a bout during drinking. I had always been a blusher, but after that first time, I'd get all splotchy anytime I got nervous or excited, and was just brutal because I worked in customer service.

It has all but stopped in the last decade (I'm 39 now), but I cannot say if it's because I "outgrew" it or if it's because I stay away from alcohol now (to be clear, it happened all of the time, with no alcohol present, but I'd done some reading about "Asian Flush" as well, and wonder if the toxicity just sticks around and comes up during spells of raised blood pressure).
posted by kattyann at 3:31 PM on January 29, 2014

I also get neck and face flushing in many of the situations mentioned above. It sucks. When I talked to a doctor about it many years ago, she diagnosed it as "Overactive Sympathetic Nervous System". She prescribed a very low dose of a beta-blocker (I believe it was called Propranalol) which totally worked but made me so tired I could barely function. It might be worth a try to see if you can tolerate the side effects. I wasn't crazy about taking medication anyway, but I gave it a go because there were times (like when I had to give presentations at work) when it was just really annoying and uncomfortable. One thing I found weird was that when I was taking the beta-blocker I still FELT like I was flushing (hot, itchy sensation on my skin), but there was no visible redness. I also tried a homeopathic dose of belladonna that a naturopath prescribed some years later. It worked for a couple of months, but then the flushing came right back. Sometimes drinking ice water and taking some time to breathe helps it go away more quickly, but most of the time I just have to wait it out. I don't have anything else to offer other than extreme empathy for constantly being asked if you're having an allergic reaction/are sunburned/are embarrassed/etc by well-intentioned people. It's no fun at all.
posted by ezrainch at 4:42 PM on January 29, 2014

I get this too. I call it "getting my color up". My eye doctor said it was rosacea and prescribed a very low dose of antibiotic. It worked but I didn't keep taking it because it wasn't worth taking meds for and I also felt strange to be missing such an integral part of myself.
posted by aliksd at 5:59 PM on January 30, 2014

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