A Quick Primer on Hives

by Mike Sententia on January 9, 2012

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I was telling my mother about the healing technique I used for Lisa’s hives, and realized there’s some medical background that would probably help readers understand why it’s so hard.

Several of your body’s systems are involved in rashes. (This isn’t magick stuff, this is just standard medicine. Also, I’m not a doctor, so don’t base medical decisions on this post).

First is your nerves. They signal itching, which (1) makes you scratch, damaging your skin, causing a bunch of skin responses that make you itch more, and (2) makes the area where the rash is release chemical messengers to take on fluid and get attention from the immune system. So that’s feedback loop 1: Itching nerves trigger cellular responses that cause more itching.

Second is the immune system, which is the direct cause of the rash: It incorrectly believes that your cells are foreign cells and starts attacking them, which releases chemicals that cause you to itch. But that’s not all: Your white blood cells also release messengers for other white blood cells, putting them into what I’m calling “attack mode,” which would be great if there were an actual infection to attack, but here just means they’re on a hair trigger, ready to attack her skin if she comes into contact with anything she’s remotely allergic to. That’s the second feedback loop: White blood cells release chemicals to put your immune system on high alert, which then causes more immune responses, which releases more of those “attack mode” chemical messengers.

To draw a picture of it would be two feedback loops that touch in the middle, like an 8. The top loop is your nerves, the bottom is your immune system. And either loop can get the problem as a whole started again.

Hopefully there’s not a third loop I don’t know about, waiting to kick things off next.

Other posts in this series: If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

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