HEALTH: Learning to Live With CSU

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News


By Oliver Douglas, as told to Kara Mayer Robinson

Daily life with chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) is something I’ve gotten used to over the years. It isn’t a life-threatening illness or life-altering condition. I just consider it chronic. I try to avoid triggers and make healthy lifestyle changes. When it flares up, I treat it.

Managing Day by Day

I’ve had CSU for about 10 years. It flares up and I get red patches on my legs and arms. If it’s really bad, I might get it on my chest, hands, feet, ears, and back.

My hives tend to be small. If I scratch them constantly, they can become open wounds. Extreme heat can make it worse. I’ve tried many methods to manage it. I’ve taken antihistamines, which have really worked wonders at keeping symptoms at bay. Steroids have been helpful during severe flare-ups. Steroids can be used for a long time, but you shouldn’t. While medications may temporarily reduce the symptoms, they don’t address the root cause.

Making Changes That Count

The best thing I’ve done to manage my CSU is make lifestyle changes. It took me a while to realize this was what I needed the most.

For the first few years I ignored my CSU. I believed I was healthier than most people so I didn’t mind if I was eating poorly. I began to realize that I had to take better care of myself as my CSU got worse.

At first I believed that I could just exercise more. I began exercising vigorously four to five times per week. It wasn’t enough for me to change my poor diet. Making my diet more healthy is what has been most helpful to me. Since the beginning of this year, I have eliminated all processed foods, sugars, as well as other unhealthy foods. I now eat healthy foods such as lean meats and nuts, fruits, vegetables, non-gluten grains, and legumes. I try to only drink water.

I also see a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner who makes teas from different roots and bark. He changes the ingredients depending on my needs each time I visit. This was a great help. My CSU isn’t gone completely but I have made greater progress since making lifestyle changes than in any other years.

Watch for Triggers

I’ve also gotten better at managing triggers, which helps a lot. I avoid triggers that can cause flare-ups.

I’ve been told that alcohol, aspirin and tight clothes are common triggers for CSU. I have never taken or drank any pills so I do not know about those. When I exercise, I have worn tight clothes many times and never had any problems.

My triggers became clear to me over time. Some people keep a diary to track their triggers, but I have it for so long that it is easy to see what my triggers are.

Gluten and heat are my main triggers. Gluten sensitivity has made it difficult for me to eat gluten-free. Extreme heat is when I feel my worst, so I avoid heat as much as possible.

The worst thing I have ever felt was while on vacation in Italy. It felt like someone had set my body ablaze when I went outside in midday sunlight. I had to go in, get a cold shower, apply an aloe vera lotion, and wait for nightfall. It was hard, and it almost ended my trip. It’s all part of life, I guess.

I’ve also noticed that wind and extreme cold are triggers. I now try to avoid them.

A Better Outlook

Keeping things in perspective helps me manage the ups and downs of CSU.

I feel fortunate that it has never become too serious. I don’t have to worry about a severe or extreme allergic reaction. I don’t worry about what could happen.

Having a day that is normal and with few flare-ups is the best. These days are what I appreciate the most. It’s about understanding the situation and learning to accept it.

For me, it was easy to get used to it. In the beginning, my outlook was not positive. I used to check my skin for any spots. My skin would be checked every few hours, or even every few minutes. But over time, I’ve learned that as long as I know my triggers and have safeguards in place, my skin will be OK.

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