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Hives and Strep

Mar 02, 2013 - 1 comments






At 32, I had my first outbreak with hives after a perfect storm gathered within my body.  I had swollen tonsils, but otherwise felt pretty healthy.  Seasonal pollens had just started in my area (regular allergies), plus I was in a house with lots of cat dander that day (moderate cat allergy).  It was also an emotional day: a fight with a loved one, the death of another.  I think that for all these triggers, my hives began this day, of all days.  That evening, I had what looked like mosquito bites on my bottom and thighs.  The hives mostly disappeared by the next day, but returned with a vengeance that night, and I was prescribed the steroid pregnisone to help with the inflammation (50 mg), and benadryl.  The following day, the hives spread to angry welts over my limbs and lower trunk, and I couldn't sleep or find any relief from the burning and pain (7 out of 10 scale, 10 being natural childbirth).  I went to the ER, where they gave me epinephrin and a breathing treatment (was wheezing), and tested me for mono, and strep throat.  I also began taking the antibiotic keflex in advance of the strep reading, because my hives were so severe.  Doctors also wondered if there was something else going on besides hives; I began to consider I was dying.  The hives subsided for a few hours, but again, became so debilitating that I returned to the ER, concerned with additional symptoms of nausea and a strong headache.  None of the medicines helped, aside from benadryl, which helped me fall asleep.  I couldn't function at all -- my husband had to stay home from work to take care of our children, and my mother would take me to the doctors.  

On day 3, I learned that I had strep, and felt some hope at first that I might heal.  A dermatologist performed a biopsy of my rash, and confirmed by day 6 that it was indeed hives.  The hives continued to mutate in appearance, looking like serious burns, to grey/purple, mottled bruises, to infected insect bites -- my hope of healing danced around responsively.  It also moved everywhere: my scalp, my face, my chest, my armpits and ears.  I was nursing a 3 month old, and was terrified my milk might be bad for her with all the drugs I was taking (all considered 'safe', but still...).  I was given an 80 mg shot of pregnisone on day 4, along with the 40 mg of pregnisone orally, and there was no dent in the progression of these hives.  I was also taking pepsid (type 2 antihistamine), benadryl, claritin, and keflex.  On day 5, I asked two different doctors permission to step entirely off the drugs except the benadryl and keflex, and they felt it would be fine since I hadn't been on pregnisone long.  Unfortunately, they were mistaken, and I suffered severe, lying on the floor abdominal pain and nausea for a few hours until I started taking 30 mg of pregnisone again, as well as pepsid, which I learned I now needed to protect my stomach from the pregnisone.  

Beginning on day 5, I began to see improvement with sleep, where the hives would abate and shrink/lighten.  But movement/activity would flare up the welts and discomfort, and before long I would look and feel horrible again.  Days 7 and 8, the hives near completely disappeared by the morning, aside from some purplish scarring on my abdomen and legs where I had the worst welts-- but movement again would spread the hives all over my body and face.  Today, day 9, I feel the most myself, and the hives are light and completely manageable, just a little itchy.  The purplish scarred patches remain, but will probably fade with time.  I'm fairly certain that this awful experience is coming to an end.  It has been a dramatic, fast recovery, just as dramatic and fast as this completely debilitating nightmare began.  In addition to the exhaustion and physical pain, these hives have been just as traumatic psychologically -- with their constant mutation and movement, and medicines/doctors/online research didn't help at all with my specific case.  Now, in retrospect, I believe strep was the culprit, and it had been brewing untreated in my system for a while: I had swollen tonsils for over a month prior, and periodic sore throats.  Several months before, when my strep symptoms began, I went to the doctor, but the test returned negative.  I now know that 10% of strep results are false negatives, and in the future, I will get a second test if my tonsils remain inflamed.  

There's so little published about strep and hives, and I hope that my story may offer comfort to someone who goes through this.  I also truly doubt that the steroid and antihistamine drugs, aside from the antibiotics, offered any help whatsoever to my condition -- although the epinephrin shot in the ER and breathing treatment did help my system endure the strongest phase of its reaction.  I think that the hives, once started, had to just run their course, spread and conquer my body, and then begin to vanish -- as insensible as that may seem.  

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by WengerB, Jan 01, 2017
I had the same horrific thing happen to me as well. I let it go on for nearly two weeks with the giant welted hives. I thought it was poison oak and because I had no insurance, I was putting off seeking medical attention because I had no other symptoms than the hives. After two weeks the hives covered my entire body and then I woke up and all of my joints were swelling. It was incredibly painful. My tongue began to swell as well and I went into the emergency room immediately. They ran a bunch of tests on me and found nothing. The doctor wanted discharge me saying I was having an allergic reaction to something. Desperate because I knew something was wrong, I asked him to run a rapid strep test on me. He came back completely shocked because it was positive. Apparently, strep, when left untreated for too long,  can turn into Rheumatic Fever. Which causes swelling and pain in your joints and around the lining of your heart. I will never again ignore hives. Especially, ones that are giant and welted. The fact that even a doctor had no idea what was wrong with me, was just ridiculous and frightening. Because I had no insurance, they didn't want to run anymore tests on me, they just gave me a prescription for antibiotics that were $300 and that I couldn't afford to pay for and sent me home. Fortunately the pharmacy fought with the doctor to get me cheaper antibiotics but by that point the hives had reached my mouth and my tongue was so swollen I was having trouble breathing. It took 7 days for the hives to go away completely and my joints were horribly painful for months. Who knows what it did to my heart. I'm just thankful that something made me request that strep test or I could have died or had permanent heart damage for the rest of my life. I never mess around with hives now. If I get one, that is the first thing I make the doctor check for.

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