What it Costs to Live With Chronic Hives
Last updated: April 2023
When I think about the cost of living with chronic hives, I immediately think back to just a few years ago when I would regularly drop $50+ every month at my neighborhood CVS. I spent my money on antihistamines that would mostly or somewhat or not at all make any difference – then and even now, effectiveness depends on the day.
The cost of diagnosis
Back in 2019, I shared some photos of my wildly out-of-control hives with one of my best friends from college. She lives in another state and is an internal medicine nurse practitioner. She also works in an allergy office on weekends. It only took a few questions and photos for her to diagnose me over text message and suggest I see an allergist to talk about my treatment options. Unfortunately, it took me 2 years to follow her advice.
However, thanks to my friend, I upped my dosage of antihistamines and read everything I could find about chronic hives. I was on a high deductible insurance plan at the time and living in a new city where I had yet to even find a primary care doctor. Seeing a specialist was low on my to-do list.
But in 2021, with different insurance and a different mindset - a story for another day! - I did go to an allergist. My co-pay cost $25 and I got my “official” diagnosis of chronic idiopathic urticaria (aka chronic hives from an unknown cause). This wasn’t breaking news, but I felt better knowing I had a local doctor I could turn to for help.
The cost of treatment
Since 2019, I have been managing my hives with over-the-counter cetirizine (Zyrtec). For the daily dosage I take, this would cost me $70 to $80 per month if I went to CVS or Target and bought brand name. To save money, I buy generic cetrizine at BJs which reduces the cost to about $10 per month.
I now visit my allergist annually and pay a $25 co-pay. Lately, I have been considering whether it’s time for me to give Xolair a try. Even on my high daily dosage of antihistamines, breakthrough hives are a regular occurrence so I am thinking maybe it’s time to try something else.
What would Xolair cost me?
I don’t know what it would cost to switch from my current regimen to monthly Xolair injections. I know for sure that self-injection is NOT something I want to do so I assume I would have a monthly allergy office co-pay. My insurance does not cover Xolair, but I know there are patient assistance programs available. Are the extra cost and office visits worth it? I don’t know.
Other costs of living with chronic hives
When I think about the discomfort, inconvenience, and frustration I have experienced because of my hives, I know the real “costs” are so much more than what I can add up on a calculator.
I’ve made countless decisions and changed lots of plans over the years. Weighing my desire to just live my life against the reality that I sometimes look like I have a terrible case of poison ivy and wouldn’t blame others for being in close proximity to me.
Where do I go from here?
A year ago, I thought I could manage with over-the-counter antihistamines. Maybe I still can. For me, the most aggravating thing about living with chronic hives is the unpredictability.
Everything feels unpredictable. Where will new hives pop up today? Will they be itchy? Am I doing enough to give myself relief? What would it cost to go on Xolair? Is it worth it?
What has managing chronic hives cost you financially, physically, or emotionally? Let’s talk about it! Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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