Monday, April 11, 2005

I "C" You Itching

A reader named Zal has an itch for vitamin C, but it's not the good kind of itch. Zal writes: "I have been a Vitamin C user for many years, both for daily maintenance as well as therapeutically for colds and flus. However, I have recently been recovering from a case of acute hives (going on 12 weeks now; suppressed with antihistamines) and it appears that Vitamin C is now acting as an 'aggravator' for the hives. That is, if I take Vitamin C, the next day the hives will be worse. "I'm not looking for a specific treatment suggestion. I'm just wondering if there is an aggravation link and if there is, what one should consider as an alternative, since Vitamin C can be so helpful. (Note: the aggravation has happened with both ascorbic acid and ester-C forms)." Anyone who's experienced the intense discomfort caused by hives can sympathize with Zal's dilemma. So I called on panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., to field Zal's questions, and here's what he had to say: "Normally vitamin C would be my choice for hives, though unfortunately the dose can get really high to stop it, even up to 4 grams per HOUR (whoa!). Of course, such a dose would cause diarrhea in someone who isn't sick. "In this case it may be an issue of what caused the hives in the first place. Originally I would have said to suspect the brand of C, or possibly the acidity challenge, but acid and ester-C have been tried. However, if both are of the same brand or produced by the same company, it might be worth switching to a pure ascorbate form of C, and from a different company (the base substance may be similar and you might be allergic to that, because it is possible to be allergic to anything, including nutrient supplements)." For Zal or anyone trying to track down the source of hives, Dr. Spreen recommends checking to see if the distribution of the hives is related to clothing coverage. Allergies can stem from sensitivity to certain fabrics as well as detergents used to wash the fabrics. In addition, lawn treatments, new carpet, and new furniture are also key triggers for hives.


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