Three posts about health, part three: I’m allergic to my own sweat


Not a joke. If you google the phrase “I’m allergic to my own sweat” you come to a bunch of results that point you to what I have: cholinergic urticaria. “Cholinergic” referring to acetacholine, and “urticaria” which just means “hives.” What that means is that I break out in horrible red itchy hives whenever my body gets warm.

Walking on a warm day will do it. A warm (not hot) shower will do it. A few pushups will do it. A stressful conversation with my wife will do it. In fact, just cooking at the stove will make do it.

Now some people really are allergic to their actual sweat. I’m not. I did the test where I swabbed sweat onto a towel, let it dry, then re-wet it against my skin. There was no response, so it’s just the actual internal heat my body is responding to. My doctor suggested I take over-the-counter cetirizine, which didn’t make the hives go away, but they didn’t itch very much.

How awesome is it to sit in the cafe with hives all over your arms? Just as awesome as you think. Even in warm weather, I wear long sleeves.

I’ve stopped taking the cetirizine, though. I read an article about links between acetacholine blockers and dementia, and I’d rather look horrible and feel worse, thanks. [UPDATE: I’m told that cetirizine is perfectly safe! Thank god.]

It started in 2012. I’d spent the previous summer and fall losing weight. I’d dropped about 40 pounds, but things stalled out around the holidays, to my non-surprise. Then, in January, my father in law died. I spent two weeks in upstate NY helping my wife’s family deal with the estate. That’s where the symptoms started. For a long time, I thought I’d been poisoned there, but now I’m not so sure what happened.

Anyway, the last time I mentioned this, a number of people pointed me at a weight loss documentary, but I got these symptoms after I’d started dropping pounds. However, my symptoms have recently eased thanks to some pro-biotics my wife picked up for me. Gut flora is the new trendy explanation for everything health-related, right? Well, we gave it a try and it’s helped. With luck, in a few weeks I’ll be able to exercise again.