Itchy Rash Caused By Dermatographism 

I am 26 years old and I have an itchy rash. For the last 24 and a half years, I have had no known allergies and I prided myself on this fact. The only thing that I was "allergic" to was milk (lactose intolerance, which just appeared out of nowhere). I find milk only mildly allergic and I am fine with every other dairy product.

Last year, I got my first taste of itchy rash or Dermatographism - I didn't even know what it was called until a few weeks ago! I first noticed the rashes or hives in October 2007 and they lasted for about 6 to 8 weeks and then they were gone. I first thought it was an itchy rash allergic reaction to something. I thought it was the new place at first (I migrated to England 3 years ago from India) as England is known to be rife with allergies and skin infections. The weird part was my mom, living on the other side of the planet, got the same problem around exactly the same time and she is 32 years older than I am, which rules out any age-related genetic disorder. And this year, same time again, my dermatographism has reared its ugly head. Big bumps, hives and welts, which do not last for more than an hour, pin prick-like sensations and the next minute, the skin swells up, and the usual symptoms appear.

I have not seen a doctor about this. My mum has and was told there is no cure for this, so I did not bother. The rashes are their worst in the evenings. This could be due to the fact that I change into night clothes from my work/street clothes (deducing that the pressure of tight-fitting clothes on skin is relieved), or that I have the central heating on at home (due to the cold) and the constant heat is irritating the skin. Or it could be the fact that my skin does not come in contact with sunlight during the October to January period due to the short days and I go to work in the dark and come back when it's dark! Coming from a country where the sun shines all year around to a country where there are sporadic (and rare) bursts of sunshine, makes me wonder about the relationship between sunlight and the itchy rash hives. I did read about two people on this blog who mentioned tanning beds doing the trick to get rid of the itchy rash.

I have noticed black/purple grapes trigger the rashes (same with my mum) and also blueberries, so does it have something to do with purple fruits? The sulphites in them? Every time I have something with MSG or sweeteners or preservatives, it gets worse, so too many chemicals interfering with our immune system?

I am a microbiologist and so I thought it was to do with my immune system weakening due to constant exposure to pathogens. I have a healthy diet – I am a vegetarian, eat only organic food whenever possible and available, and avoid preservatives and additives. I did read about sweeteners and preservatives ruining the immune system, so not sure if they cause hives.

I have found temporary relief in Himani's BORO PLUS prickly heat powder. My itching subsides in less than 5 minutes and even though the welts take 30 to 45 minutes to disappear, I stop itching in 5 minutes! It is an Ayurvedic formulation and it has worked miracles for me. I do not rely on Anti-histamines solely for the reason of long-term side effects and also giving the body a chance to fight off its own problems! This powder, however, is available only in Indian markets or maybe Indian stores abroad. Not sure if you could buy it online, but it's something that works marvelously well.

According to some research studies, dermatographism can be temporary in most cases, appearing and disappearing over a period of 3 years, and then disappearing altogether. I hope and pray this is the case for me and all my fellow sufferers here.

Ash - November 29, 2008



I noticed the itchy rash hives when I was around 12. I could scratch my skin and red, puffy lines would appear where I scratched. They are not itchy and they go away after 15 minutes or so. It has not been a big problem in my life although I do not think I can get a tattoo since the image would get distorted from the puffy skin. My face does get a little red when I drink alcohol, but not too bad.

Richard – November 16, 2008



On the 20th of August my 20 year old son broke out in itchy rash hives all over his body for the first time ever. He was diagnosed with Chronic Ideophathic Urticaria. After seeing five different doctors and a dermatologist the situation was no better. He was given injections (when the outbreaks were really bad) and put onto large doses of antihistamines (Deselex and Atarax).

We were told that urticaria and its causes are not well understood and that, bottom line, he would have to live with it, which could be for anywhere between 6 months and 20 years!! My son is a 6'3", 120 kg man who is a talented rugby player and thus extremely active physically. We were not prepared to accept this without doing everything possible to help him. None of the five doctors, nor the dermatologist, seemed to place any importance on triggers causing the outbreaks.

As the mother, I was convinced there was something he was eating which was triggering the outbreaks of itchy rash hives. We then went to an Allergy Clinic and saw an extremely competent doctor who specializes in allergies and urticaria. PRESERVATIVES namely SODIUM BENZOATE and SULPHUR DIOXIDE are the triggers of his urticaria. He has been put on Cetirizene anti-histamines and is on a fresh food and low histamine diet. After having severe, raised, and extremely itchy hives for three months, every day, he has been clear for a week!!

I know how debilitating, awful, and depressing this condition is and therefore urge anyone who is suffering from this and has exhausted all avenues to try to cut out the two named preservatives. Sodium Benzoate is in just about everything but especially high concentrates are found in fizzy cool drinks (Coke, Fanta etc), Energade, most tinned foods, condiments, etc. Fortunately with the new interest in organic foods you can find preservative free alternatives. Avoid smoked, processed foods like salami, ham, Vienna sausage, and liver pate. Furthermore cut out alcohol and anything with aspirin in it (take only Panado). Lastly, the "red/orange" spices such as paprika, cinnamon etc. should also be avoided. Bottom line, eat fresh, unprocessed foods and drink water or apple juice (without preservatives).

The doctor who has helped us and given us the above advice is Dr. Adrian Morris – an authority in this field. If you "Google" his name, there is a lot of very helpful info on his website. Obviously not everyone's urticaria is triggered by preservatives, there might be other allergens which cause the itchy rash. I am so grateful to Dr. Morris that he has pinpointed the root of our problem and I feel there must be other people who have the same triggers and that this info might improve the quality of life of someone, somewhere in the rest of the world. DON'T GIVE UP TRYING TO FIND THE TRIGGER OF YOUR URTICARIA.

PS. Prior to 20th of August and the first outbreak of itchy rash hives, my son could happily consume these preservatives so what makes them now poison to his system I could not say. Please let me know if any of you have success with the aforesaid.

Lisa – November 15, 2008



I am 17 and I got Dermographism itchy rash a few years ago (about 2 1/2 yrs) and it is getting worse lately. I am itchy all over. My arms, thighs, and sides of my tummy are the worse. In fact, I am itchy right now. I

I went to the dermatologist four months ago. She gave me Fexofenadine, not Allegra but a substitute, and told me to take Benadryl. It did not really help with the itchy rash. A month later, she gave me Clobetasol Propionate cream which still did not help much. So a month after that, she gave me Xyzal. So when I wake up, I take Fexofendine, when I get home from school, I take Benadryl, and then before I go to bed, I take Xyzal. It helps a little bit, but my itchy rash hives are still bad. I am going to see my dermatologist again in a few weeks and see if she has anymore options for me.

Nunou – November 13, 2008


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