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Learning to Live With CSU

By Oliver Douglas, as told to Kara Mayer RobinsonDaily life with chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) is something I’ve gotten used to over the years. I don’t really consider it a life-threatening or life-changing illness, just a chronic condition that I manage with a few strategies. I avoid triggers, make healthy lifestyle choices, and treat it…

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. I don’t really consider it a life-threatening or life-changing illness, just a chronic condition that I manage with a few strategies. I avoid triggers, make healthy lifestyle choices, and treat it when it flares up.

Managing Day by Day

I’ve had CSU for about 10 years. When it flares up, I get hives and red spots on my arms and legs. If I’m having a particularly bad episode, I may also get it on my hands, feet, ears, back, and chest.

My hives are usually pretty small. But if I’m scratching nonstop, they can turn into open wounds. It gets worse during periods of extreme heat.

I’ve tried many things to manage it. I’ve taken antihistamines, which have really worked wonders at keeping symptoms at bay. During bad flare-ups, I’ve used steroids. But you can’t stay on steroids for an extended period of time. And while medications can take the edge off, none of them address the root cause of the problem.

Making Changes That Count

The best thing I’ve done to manage my CSU is make lifestyle changes. It took time to realize that’s what I needed most.

For the first few years, I mostly just ignored my CSU. I thought I was healthier than most people, so it was OK if I was eating poorly. As my CSU gradually got worse, I realized that I needed to look after myself better.

At first, I thought all I had to do was exercise more, so I started exercising intensely four or five times a week. But it wasn’t enough to overturn an imperfect diet.

Making my diet better is the one thing that has helped me most. In the past year or so, I’ve completely removed all processed foods, sugars, and other bad foods from my diet. Now, I try to eat only healthy foods like lean meats, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and non-gluten grains. I also try to drink only water.

I also see a traditional Chinese medicine specialist who mixes up different teas with various roots and tree bark. Each time I go, he changes the ingredients slightly, depending on what he thinks I need. This helped me a lot.

My CSU hasn’t gone away completely, but I made more progress since I made these lifestyle changes than I did in all the years before.

Watch for Triggers

I’ve also gotten better at managing triggers, which helps a lot. I try to stay away from things that really seem to set off a flare.

I’ve heard that alcohol, aspirin, and tight clothing are some common triggers of CSU. I don’t drink or take any pills, so I have no experience with thos

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