Is There a Permanent Cure for Cholinergic Urticaria?

Heat Bumps, Hives, Cholinergic Angioedema, Heat Rash, Prickly Heat

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Cholinergic urticaria is a medical condition that happens when a person is hot or sweaty, causing a reaction of small, red, itchy bumps on the skin. "Urticaria" is the medical term for hives, and this type is smaller than other types of hives. Some people experience cholinergic urticaria that keeps coming back, which is called chronic or long-term urticaria.

There is no permanent cure for this condition, but treatment options are available.

Cholinergic urticaria is also sometimes called heat bumps, cholinergic angioedema, prickly heat, or heat rash. This article will provide an overview of cholinergic urticaria, including its treatment, prevention, and more.

Cropped shot of young woman suffering from skin allergy, scratching her forearm with fingers - stock photo

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Urticaria Definition

Urticaria, also called hives, is a reaction that leads to red, itchy bumps on the skin.

Cholinergic Urticaria Treatment

While there is no way to permanently cure cholinergic urticaria, treatment options are available. Medical professionals can prescribe medications to lessen the reaction and relieve the symptoms. Additionally, there are things people with heat bumps can do at home to feel better until the hives go away.

Avoiding Triggers

One way to address cholinergic urticaria is to identify what leads to symptoms, and what makes symptoms worse, and then avoid those things. For example, exercise can lead to heat bumps and make the symptoms worse if they are already on the skin.

This means that people with an active reaction or who experience cholinergic urticaria may choose to take extra precautions when exercising. These precautions can include only wearing breathable clothing, exercising indoors where the temperature is controlled, or taking medications before exercise.

Cholinergic Urticaria Triggers

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating spicy foods
  • Hot environment
  • Physical activity or exercise
  • Preventing heat from leaving the body (e.g., wearing a rain jacket or windbreaker)
  • Stress
  • Sweat
  • Taking a bath
  • Warm clothing
  • Warm or hot weather

Lifestyle Tips

In addition to identifying and avoiding triggers, there are lifestyle changes people with cholinergic urticaria can make to help manage the condition. For example, stress is a trigger for cholinergic urticaria, and some people with the condition may be more sensitive to stressful life events. Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation and guided imagery have been shown to reduce stress, so these practices may be helpful.

Lifestyle Tips for Cholinergic Urticaria

  • Check the weather before going outdoors.
  • Dress in layers and wear breathable clothing.
  • Manage stress daily.
  • Plan ahead with possible triggers.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.

Home Remedies

There are some things people with cholinergic urticaria can do at home to help relieve the symptoms. Since this condition happens when the body temperature increases, things that decrease the body temperature can help make the skin feel better.

For example, placing something cold on the area with the itchy bumps, such as a washcloth with cold water, can serve to lower the body temperature and soothe the skin at the same time.

Some things that can relieve heat bumps include:

  • Avoiding more irritation from scratching by tapping the area instead
  • Placing something cool on the skin
  • Showering in cool water
  • Staying hydrated by drinking water
  • Using only unscented and light products on the skin to prevent irritation and clogged pores

Medical Treatment

Cholinergic urticaria can be treated with medications called antihistamines and corticosteroids. Antihistamines work by connecting with the body chemical called histamine that leads to the reaction and blocking it.

Corticosteroids, or steroids, work by calming the immune system and decreasing swelling. Healthcare professionals such as primary care practitioners and dermatologists prescribe these medications.

Medications for Cholinergic Urticaria

  • Corticosteroids
  • First-generation antihistamines
  • Second-generation antihistamines

Prevention

Most people with cholinergic urticaria have the condition for over four years, with many still experiencing symptoms for longer than 13 years. However, that doesn't mean the symptoms are constant. The red, itchy bumps come and go.

There are steps people can take to prevent the hives from coming back. For example, symptoms are more likely to appear after drinking alcohol, so limiting alcohol consumption can help.

Tip to Prevent Cholinergic Urticaria

Limit alcohol consumption

When to See a Healthcare Provider

When a person experiences cholinergic urticaria, red, itchy bumps appear on the skin and usually go away on their own within an hour. However, this reaction can happen again in the same person, and the symptoms can come and go for years.

It is important to seek care from a healthcare provider if the hives interfere with daily life, for example, by preventing exercise or any other activity or enjoyment of an activity.

Hives can also be associated with a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, so it is important to seek immediate care if a person experiences:

Summary

Cholinergic urticaria is a type of hives that involves red, itchy bumps on the skin that appear after being physically active or spending time in the heat. Some people experience the rash off and on, which is considered long-term or chronic urticaria. While there is no way to permanently cure cholinergic urticaria, it does eventually go away, though it can take years.

This condition can be treated medically with prescriptions such as corticosteroids or antihistamines. Additionally, the reaction and symptoms that come along with it can be reduced and prevented by identifying and avoiding triggers, managing daily stress, and providing comfort measures such as lacing something cool on the skin.

A Word From Verywell

Suspecting, being diagnosed with, and experiencing cholinergic urticaria can be very uncomfortable and challenging, especially when the symptoms come and go for a long time. Although there is no cure for this condition, it can be treated and cleared up.

Additionally, there are ways to prevent and cope with the symptoms. If you or someone you know is facing hives from heat or exercise, reach out to a healthcare provider such as a primary care practitioner or dermatologist for support.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can cholinergic urticaria be cured permanently?

    No, cholinergic urticaria cannot be cured permanently by medical professionals or with home remedies. However, the condition does eventually go away on its own. Additionally, there are treatments that can decrease the reaction and manage the symptoms.

  • How do you get rid of cholinergic urticaria naturally?

    Cholinergic urticaria can be treated naturally by placing washcloths with cold water on the area of skin with bumps, avoiding triggers such as exercising in clothing that does not allow heat to leave the body, and managing stress.

  • What is the fastest way to get rid of cholinergic urticaria?

    The fastest way to get rid of cholinergic urticaria depends on the person and the cause of the reaction. For example, someone who experiences red, itchy bumps while spending time outdoors in the heat may benefit most from going indoors with air-conditioning to cool down. It can also help to place something cool on the area of the skin with the rash.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ashley Olivine, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Ashley Olivine is a health psychologist and public health professional with over a decade of experience serving clients in the clinical setting and private practice. She has also researched a wide variety psychology and public health topics such as the management of health risk factors, chronic illness, maternal and child wellbeing, and child development.