October 13, 2012

Toxic Itch - Walking It Out

I've had seasonal allergies since college. My nose gets runny, my eyes and nose itch, and I tend to sneeze a lot in the mornings. It's miserable, but at least my allergies knew their place and didn't cross those symptom boundaries... until last year. Last year was the beginning of the all over, take me out of the game, body itch.

It often started with my scalp. Late last summer I worried several times that I'd gotten head lice. You wouldn't believe how much mayonnaise I smeared all over my head. (Mayonnaise is a non-toxic way to soffocate lice as well as many of their eggs. You coat your head with it, wrap your hair with a towel/rag/something, and sleep in it. When you wash it out in the morning, you'll wash the lice and their eggs out as well.) But after having a couple different people look through my scalp and not find anything, and given that the itching seemed to be fairly occasional and not limited to my neck and behind my ears (which is where lice like to hang out) I finally decided something else was going on. Besides, lice didn't explain the occasional hand itching or even the all over body itching that sometimes happened.

My hands were the other frequent victims of intense itching. I never saw welts or bumps, but they'd itch like they were very, very dry. They didn't look particularly dry, though. And putting lotion on them didn't seem to make any difference in terms of whether or not they itched.

And then there was the all over body itch. Sometimes when I was gardening or doing housework, I'd start to itch all over so badly that I'd have to run cold water over my hands to get them to feel better and then I'd lie down until the itching all over the rest of my body stopped. I tried benadryl, zyrtec and some generic allergy medicines but nothing seemed to help.

That's when I finally decided to see a doctor about it. She just shrugged and said, "Well, you'll need to stay out of the wind." So I tried, but noticed that wind or no, the itching continued. Eventually I started to see a pattern to when the itching occurred. If I did anything that caused me to sweat a bit, I'd itch. If I was embarrassed or surprised and I flushed, I itched. I started to wonder if there were toxins in my system and they were coming out when I sweated. Some time in February I came across an article online that said that muscles can store toxins unless they're flushed out through exercise. I started to wonder if that was my problem. When the itching began, I stopped doing anything that would bring it on, meaning that I stopped doing yard work, I stopped gardening, I cleaned the house even less frequently than I already was. I did whatever it took to not itch and that mostly meant not moving around too much. Even running errands would sometimes set it off - just from carrying bags from the store to the car and loading it up. I decided that had to change.

I decided that I'd just have to deal with the itch. I started walking the dog once in awhile, and by March I was walking her daily, in the hope that I could get rid of the itchiness. In the beginning I'd force myself to go at least 5 minutes past the point of utter itchination. Since I was walking in pretty cold weather, it helped a lot that I could take off my hat, mittens or jacket since the cool air seemed to help stop the itching while still allowing my body to remove the toxins. The more often I walked, the longer I was able to walk each time before being hit with the itchies. By mid-April or early May, the toxins must have been out of my system because I stopped itching for several months. But I knew that I couldn't stop walking or the toxins would just build up again.

I've been walking (nearly) every day now since last March. I've had two incidents (one at the end of September and one in early October) where I started to itch again. It was only my hands one time and my head another time, so it still wasn't nearly as bad as last year. It's an easy and cheap solution to a problem that was threatening to change my life. Now that it's the fall again and I'm mostly itch free during the time of year when it was the absolute worst last time, I decided that I need to write about my experience and hope that my story will help others that are experiencing unexplained, hiveless itching.