What's up with these hives?
March 8, 2008 7:11 AM   Subscribe

What's up with these hives?

So I have some elusive food allergy similar to this. In the past, it's caused me to break out in hives so severely that I've needed to go to the hospital. That hasn't happened in a long time and now when I eat one of the trigger foods (usually hiding in Indian, Chinese, and Mexican foods) I won't break out right away. Instead, I'll break out only at night and in the morning and only on my hands, elbows, knees and feet. And it's not a one-time thing anymore, it lasts for days- maybe a week.

So, hive mind (ha!). What's up with this? Did something cause the change? Why only these places? Why only at these times? It has nothing to do with my location and everything to do with the time of day (around 8am and midnight). Has this happened to anyone else?
posted by Thin Lizzy to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The immune system is funky. For example, some people with lupus find that the sun triggers a strong immune reaction, while others have the same issue with flourescent lights. Some people get hives when they're under stress. I can't pin down the exact cause of your allergic reaction; or even guess what the culprit is, but I can tell you that the immune system, there is not always an answer.

My only suggestion is that perhaps you have an unusually strong immune reaction to spicy foods?
posted by sondrialiac at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2008

If it's the insides of your elbows and the backs of your knees I'd suggest it's where you sweat lightly even when you're not sweating anywhere else.
posted by fshgrl at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2008

You have identified the spicy food groups which you might need to avoid. Your system does change over time in its reactivity to various pepper, curry, grease. at 55+ many people find they can't eat the "stuff" that teenagers find appealing. One solution that has worked for me is to chomp down on a couple of antacid tablets before going to sleep whenever I've gone on a Mexican, Indian , Thai, Chinese gastronomy trip. Works for Pizza as well.
posted by Agamenticus at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2008

i have chronic autoimmune urticaria. when i'm not on huge doses of medication, i flare worse at night and then it tapers off during the day, only to flare again at night. this is common for urticaria sufferers. so...yeah.

if you know you're only triggered by x, y and z for god's sake avoid them. i would love to be triggered by food only and not my body reacting to itself like the douche it is.

if you must have indian food, take an antihistamine about 1 hour before you plan to eat. this will help curb the severity of the flaring.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:56 AM on March 8, 2008

Could be sesame oil.
posted by BeaverTerror at 1:31 PM on March 8, 2008

Best answer: I suspect that the timing of the response is more related to when you ate the food, rather than, specifically, the time of day. It seems to take some time for your body to see the allergen and mount a response to it. This could be a delay in how long the particular component(s) of the food take to get into your system, and/or delays in your immune system's response.

And the difference between your past and present responses is probably just an age-related "winding down" of your immune system. It's not unusual for people to become desensitized to their allergens as they get older, although the exact reasons/mechanisms for this are unknown. There are definite age-related changes to the immune system (old people are much more susceptible to infections, for example), but it's not something that's easily studied (for reasons I won't go into). Thus, while the phenomenon is real, the hows and whys are still a mystery.

The reason(s) for the locations are tricky to say. They're almost certainly caused by your antibody response to the allergen. They bind to the allergens and form these complexes that other parts of your immune system see. Quite often, these complexes get lodged in places where the blood vessels are much narrower (skin, joints), and then stimulate a local inflammatory response (hives, in the case of skin). But why you are getting responses only in the places you mention, I couldn't say with any real degree of certainty. My personal belief is that local inflammatory responses make the site at which they occur more likely to be the site that they occur the next time round. Kind-of a self-feeding effect. The more rashes that occur in a particular place, the more that area gets remodeled (new/smaller blood vessels and more immune cells), the more likely that antibody will deposit there. However, that is purely speculation on my part.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:46 PM on March 8, 2008

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