Saturday, February 02, 2013

Up for air

Not much to report on the "Jill Outside" front this week. But sometimes when about a week goes by without an update, I feel I should post something on my blog lest my family begin to believe I've disappeared into another adventure, or disappeared altogether.

Nope. I've been here all this time, and for the past 36 hours my activity mostly involved sitting quite still. This week has been a bemusing slump through a trifecta of infections that seem to be unrelated to each other. The sinus pressure and cough I accepted as penance. After all, it was my idea to get a flu shot last week, which is what I decided to blame when I felt slightly off but not quite sick for days afterward, and then I went for a hard bike ride and a 31-mile run. Then I really did get sick. Okay, I deserved that. But then I quickly slipped into a world of discomfort that culminated when a mysterious rash spread across my neck, arms, lower back, and hips. It flared up rapidly and then clamped down like a vice, making it painful for me to move my upper body.

Like the hypochondriac that I can sometimes be, I trolled the Web and convinced myself I had a systemic candida infection and I was either going to die or spend the rest of the week lying in bed slathered head to toe in diaper rash paste. But like the stubborn person I am, I resolved to self-treat my rash through the weekend and call my doctor if it wasn't better by Monday. I effectively didn't fall asleep until dawn broke Friday morning, and then resisted Beat's efforts to rouse me out of bed at 10 a.m. I was awake; I just didn't feel like moving. "Call the doctor," he urged. "This is what doctors are for."

The doctor told me I was likely experiencing a plain old allergic reaction, probably from either laundry detergent or food, or really any number of things that a person can suddenly become severely allergic to. He gave me a prescription that quickly downgraded my symptoms from "morphing into a statue" to "mildly itchy and uncomfortable." Yay prednisone. But it does leave me wondering ... if it is an allergic reaction and not a immune system hiccup as I previously suspected, what am I so allergic to?

I have friends who have banged their heads against the wall for years regarding allergies. One friend battled crippling skin outbreaks that kept her home from work, and eventually cut her diet down to about six different items of food. My own diet is simple and satisfying, and remains effectively the same foods I've eaten since my childhood, but it reads like a laundry list of typical food allergy suspects — raw vegetables and fruits, dairy, a whole lotta grain, some lean protein and legumes. And of course sugary energy foods. I tend to be defensive about my eating habits because they're so out of fashion right now (it's very much a 1990s low-fat, high-calorie marathon runner diet.) But I don't really enjoy eating meat or many foods with high fat content, because both upset my digestive system, and can't imagine how any low-carb diet wouldn't disrupt my endurance lifestyle. But if you'd asked me at 3 a.m. while I was lying awake and marinating in my own misery, I would have happily agreed to a diet of grass and twigs if I thought it would make the rash go away.

I remain optimistic that this was just a one-time occurrence or perhaps the fault of my compromised immune system that's been dragging me around all week. But experiences like this do make me wonder ... good health can be lost so easily and randomly. Just how much control do I have?

I'm happy Beat talked me into acquiring steroids before the weekend started. I feel so much better already, and hopefully I can get back outside and go for a run and maybe even the long bike ride I'd been planning on Sunday. The weather has been gorgeous, and it's true that even short dips into minor illnesses exponentially increase my appreciation of health.


  1. Yes, thank goodness for prednisone. Allergies can be so hard to understand and pinpoint. Your doctor may be right about it being an allergy, but there are two other diagnoses to consider (and one is not systemic Candida!! - you are way too healthy to worry about that): 1. eczema (just like diaper rash) due to sweating under clothing that doesn't fully dry for hours (as in bike ride + 31 mile run, especially if it was in the cold) or 2. exanthema - which is just a reactive rash, which would either be to the flu vaccine or the illness you had. Either of these would respond well to prednisone, so that was definitely a good choice treatment!

    I'm guessing it was a one time deal and I wouldn't attempt to identify allergens in your diet or anything, barring a recurrence.

    I was sick this past week, too - and as much as misery loves company, I'm sorry you had to go through this! Next week simply must be better - and good point, by the way: we have way less control over our health than we all would like to believe. That's why we enjoy life as long as and when we can.

  2. Thanks for the input SLG. That's helpful info and makes me feel a little bit better. Given the location of the rash (neck, forearms, hips and back — all places where I tend to sweat more heavily), your theory makes sense.

    I hope you feel better soon as well.

  3. I get rashes if I don't change from my running clothes quickly enough (mine appears on my chest and stomach). They mysteriously go away after a couple of days but itch like crazy until then.

    I've been battling my seasonal (year round here, grrr) allergies/EIA lately and have felt pretty wrecked, so much that I'm considering taking a week off (can't remember the last time I did this) from running to see if I improve. Better to do that now when I am early in training rather than having a forced hiatus later on when it is a bigger deal, right?

    Feel better soon. Being forced to take a break isn't much fun.

  4. I haven't had many issues with rashes in the past. I've had a heat rash or two, and once developed a separate rash after I got a bunch of mosquito bites. Those were all mild discomforts compared to this rash, which was comprised of a multitude of small blister-like bumps and was much more painful than it was itchy. It got to the point where bending my hip and elbow joints sent a kind of burning pain down both limbs. I've never experienced anything like that, which is why it caught me so off guard.

    But it's interesting how your mind reacts when something cuts you down that much, isn't it? I didn't even care about a potential long break in physical activity. I just wanted to be free of pain. That was all that mattered. I would have happily agreed to anything that I thought might get me there, anything. But I am grateful that relief was as simple as a week-long dose of steroids. I just hope it doesn't come creeping back. The cause is still a mystery.

  5. I had a similar rash last year - I woke up in the middle of the night with hives from head to toe, and my lips had swelled up to twice their size! Needless to say I was terrified. Luckily Benadryl took care of it pretty quickly. I saw a doctor after the rash went away, and got allergy testing done. My allergist thought the rash was a reaction to a virus, and it never has come back (so far). It will always be a mystery.

    I wouldn't worry about diet, etc until it were to become a recurrent thing - most likely, you'll never know what it was. Glad you are feeling better!

  6. I just hope you're not allergic to Reece Cups?

  7. Thinking either its from something in the shot, or maybe shingles.

  8. Tom C - Defnitely not shingles - that is only on one side of the body.

  9. Hi Jill, definitely not playing doctor here, but the description of the rash points to this:
    I had this last year. It was most probably caused by stress and I felt really uncomfortable for a while, but one survives and is as good as new afterwards :-)
    My rash was treated with some kind of cortisone cream prescribed by a dermatologist and was completely gone after a couple of weeks (yeah, I know...weeks!)


Feedback is always appreciated!