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I cannot believe I found this site - purely by accident. I've read the postings by Mandarra and courtenaynt and can certainly relate to what they're going through. I have suffered with "chronic idiopathic urticaria" since May 2000; that's more than 5 years. I have been to my primary Dr., a Dermatologist,an Infectious Disease Dr. at Stamford Hospital in CT, Allergists, an Allergy Specialist at Yale New Haven Hospital in CT, back & forth again to my primary and the Dermatologist throughout the years, a Homeopathic Dr., now with an Allergy and Immunology Specialist, again at Yale NH Hospital. I too did the food elimination diet - that was a waste. My lips and tongue also swell. I keep a good eye on this in the event I have to run to the Emergency Room. I have been on every antihistimine out there and they don't help. The Drs. have revised the manner in which I take the drugs many times, hoping to find the right combination to stop the hives. Nothing seems to work on me except Prednisone, which I've been taking for close to 5 years. I fought the Dr. who initially wanted to put me on Prednisone but eventually he won. Prednisone is the only drug that stops the itch. Of course, I have suffered from this killer drug. My skin has thinned; I bruise very easily, especially from scratching - all over my body - from my toes to my head and everywhere in between. I scratch so hard that the skin breaks then it takes forever to heal because of the effects of the Prednisone. I've resorted to using a dry loofa (spelling?) pad to scratch with; doesn't break the skin like my nails. Forget the weight gain - I've put on a good 60-70 lbs; not good for a woman who is 5 feet. Could be more than that; afraid to weigh myself because all I do is eat. I am constantly buying new clothes in the event I have a job interview; not easy when one is not working. I've had the skin test for allergies and also the blood test. They've found that I am allergic to many things, i. e. ragweed, trees, dustmites, etc. - all the things almost everyone is allergic to. According to the lab reports thru the years, I'm as healthy as a horse. I've had my thyroid tested and have also been tested for Lupus; thank goodness negative. There are times that all of a sudden I will become itchy and when looking at the site, I notice hives appearing on the skin. I can just sit there, look and wait and within a few minutes, more hives appear. There have been times that it seems like hundreds of them are all over my body but I guess I can get away with "dozens". Many times they appear in clusters. I have been taken off the Prednisone in the past because it is such a damaging drug, but it is not long lasting. While off of it, I suffer tremendously with the itch until I can't stand it any longer and resort to taking the Prednisone. I'm presently taking Prednisone (10 mg twice daily); Allegra (60 mg twice daily; seems to work better than the 180mg 1x per day); Amitriptyline (50 mg 2x); Cimetidine (400 mg 1 x); Atenolol (100mg 1x; for blood pressure that developed when I started on Prednisone);.a diuretic 12.5 mg. 1x - due to the high blood pressure). Dr. just took me off the Zyrtec and put me on either Benadryl or Atarax (4x per day - whichever I have in the house). I have tried more creams, lotions and salves that have been prescribed and OTC. Altho most Drs. don't like their patients taking vitamins, I do take some vitamin supplements, especially Calcium for my bones. A bone density test in 2003 reflected that I had a 4.1% bone loss altho even with that loss, I was still in the good range. Hate to see where I'm at now. I could start my own pharmacy. As you know, some of these medications are so expensive, especially for me since I've been unemployed for 2 1/2 years and do not have prescription drug coverage. There is one thing I did find that helps with the itch (again not long lasting) and it is Gold Bond Medicated Power - in the green can; not the lotion and not the one in the gold/orange can; I've tried both. I don't know what more I can say at this point. I hated telling you how long I've had this condition because it is so depressing. I've thought about accupuncture but I'm told that my case is so severe it is doubtful if accupuncture would help. The Drs. admit they don't know much about the hives and try to help but at the end of the day, they go home and forget about us until we call again. Now that I've found this site, I'll be looking for more postings about the hives. Mary P.