Hives on body from allergic reaction

My Allergic Reaction Story

Posted on June 28, 2014

My Allergic Reaction Story 

Hives (warning, these photos are gross, but yes they are me)

Hives on arm chemical allergic reaction
Hives on arm from allergic reaction

Hives allergic reaction to my arms, legs, face, throat, chest, and body.

Hives on legs allergic reaction
Hives on legs allergic reaction

I need you to understand my story to understand why I am an advocate for natural living and nutritional, organic, real food eating, with joy!

My entire body was covered, swollen and burning...but that was not the worst
My entire body was covered, swollen and burning…but that was not the worst

Once upon a time………….I woke up one day, threw on some clothes, began my day and OHHH I forgot to switch the laundry. So I ran back upstairs, put the wet clothes in the dryer, and turned it on. I did not have time for breakfast so I grabbed a cookie from the fridge that I had made the day before. (This was obviously PRE Complete Transformation to natural living and eating, but it’s the truth and nothin but the truth!)

I had no idea a few moments later I would look like this – 


So what happened?!

Well, I snacked on that handful of cookies and ran around doing my normal day. I did a few loads of laundry, had another snack, drank some juice, changed a few baby diapers, and went back to doing laundry.

All of a sudden my legs starting itching. Then my chest. Then my back. Then my face felt hot. My legs, chest, arms, and face went from an uncomfortable itch to an excruciating burning feeling. I lifted my clothes and OH MY GOSH I was covered in bulging burning hives. They grew bigger and bigger. I realized they covered my entire body. Not only hives, but swelling started. It got insanely worse in a matter of seconds I looked twice my size and in burning swollen pain. I immediately jumped in the shower and washed my skin – thinking that whatever was in my new laundry detergent was causing a severe allergy. I tried to rinse off as much of the chemical as possible.

 I turned my head to call out for my husband, and that is when my voice went hoarse and I knew that swelling was not stopping and we needed emergent care.

The photos you are seeing in this blog are AFTER urgent care completely brought the hives and swelling down and sent me home. These photos are MILD compared to what it originally was.

I was lucky.

I went home alive.

On the first night back home my tongue swelled again and I had to return to urgent care.  I HAVE A PHOTO OF THIS BUT the tongue swelling photo is so gross – that  I will not publish it because it will seriously gross you all out. UGGGH it is horrible. Really, really, horrible. 

Once the allergic reaction was under control, we went to a specialist to see what happened. In a completely shortened version of a very long consultation this was the basic response.

Specialist: Do you know what is in the food and products on shelves now Joy? (Me- that naive at the time) “No.”

Specialist: Do you know how many chemicals have been created that are now in food, detergents, everything we put on our bodies every day Joy? (Me-that naive at the time). “No.”

Specialist: There are not even tests to show the amount of chemicals that exist now in all the products on the store shelves, the packaged foods, the drinks, the soaps, detergents, lotions, make-ups, products -there are manufactured chemicals in everything. Yes Joy, this reaction seems to have been triggered by the laundry detergent. But the continued allergic reactions points to your body alerting you to more allergens in your environment.  We can run some tests. I also want you to start paying attention to your body. What you put on it. What you put into it. Have you stopped to read the labels on the foods you eat? For this one chemical (we were discussing a preservative that could be causing my allergy as well), there are 16 different names it is listed under. 

I will never forget sitting in this allergist specialist office and looking at this man sitting across from me, (who spent a compassionate 1-2 hours with me), and hearing the chemicals I was putting into and on my body every day. I suddenly felt completely overwhelmed. I felt betrayed but not sure at who – who do I blame? The food companies? The chemical manufacturing companies? The educational system for not telling me this? The advertising that I drive by on the road every day saying, “Run for the Border, Golden Arches, TGIF?” The moisturizers, the cleaning products, the chemicals marketed every day on commercials and media that we are “supposed to need?”When I sat there pondering this, the realization came to me as he spoke, that my health is my choiceI wanted health with joy. And then he said the words that I will never forget.

Specialist: Joy, you need to go to real foods. You need to go to whole fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains or seeds. You need to start there. See how your body adjusts. Slowly introduce things one at a time and watch how your body responds. If you have to read a label to find out the chemicals in it, then don’t eat it. If you can see the whole food ingredients right away, then eat it. Here are a few more prescriptions to keep your body from reacting so strongly to the allergens right now. We will continue running tests as needed. There are natural ways to benefit your immune system using nutrition that I also recommend looking into.

I went home.

I have a family of 5.

I have 3 daughters depending on me.

I have a husband I adore and want to grow old with.

The food industry, media, and chemical manufacturing are not going to stop what they are doing today just because I had a life threatening reaction. 

HAD to make the change.

The allergic reaction may have nearly killed me, but it gave me the motivation I needed to fully live with joy.

After meeting with the specialist I decided, I will do whatever it takes to be as healthy as possible, using natural living, organic produce, real foods, and eliminating as many chemicals from our daily lives as possible.

That was the start of my new life. 

food plate

Every day I eat as close to 9-13 organic fruits and vegetables as I can. We cleaned our house of processed snacks and chemical full foods. Every day  I drink water. Every day I take a brief walk. Every day I pay attention to what I eat and what I put on my body. Not just myself, but my whole family. Not with the intention to stress, with the freedom knowing that I am living naturally with joy!


We have a family motto – “We Don’t Give Up.” As parents we have spoken this motto to our children over and over. Whether it was for homework, trying a new gymnastics skill, or the pain of moving and making new friends for the 6th time in two years. This motto we repeated over and over to our children. But for the first time, one of them said it back to me….

I came home from that specialist visit and was crying at the kitchen table because I had no idea how to switch our family to more whole foods, avoid the allergens,  avoid the laundry soap chemicals and avoid so many chemicals all around me. The world suddenly seemed like a new place. There were unrealized enemies in my cupboards, fridge, and cabinets. I was overwhelmed. I put my head in my hands and cried.

“Mom”, my 4 year old said, “We do NOT give up.” Her eyes, the window to her soul, spoke only truth. She needs me. She is counting on me. I do not care if I have to turn this home inside out. I will do what it takes to live with joy – healthy and complete joy – again.

This started my journey to wellness with joy.

Welcome to my life.

I am not just a nurse.

I am a Mom who went through an allergic reaction myself and I found joyful wellness through nutrition.

The day I had the allergic reaction could be considered awful. I now consider it the road to something more beautiful. My mission for my children is to share the joy of natural living and organic, real food eating, before the chemical overload. Before the body cries out for help. Before perhaps obesity, or poor nutrition, or disease steals a life too soon. Before the 4 year old looks up at you and says do not give up Mom, please do not give up.


For me the journey past the allergy reaction and into nutrition and natural living has been life changing. I was not setting out to lose any weight, but I lost 20 pounds. Holistic health with joy was my goal, transformation was an added gift. I cannot remember the last prescription I have filled for my children for antibiotics, they miss far less school due to illness, and they have had extremely healthy immune responses since they have been on this journey with me. My husband decided if I were doing this, he would to. He has also lost over 50 pounds and gained energy, strength, and joy.

I Believe in Joy!

I can still hear her little voice that day…..

“Mom, We Don’t Give Up.”


There are so many people who need to hear the same message no matter what they face. If I can write this journal entry, and just ONE person reads it – if ONE person hears me say to them right now –

“You CAN do this, DO NOT GIVE UP!” 

Then everything I went through is worth it. I am here right now, writing this post for you. Don’t give up. Whatever it is, I believe if we have breath in our lungs, it is for a purpose and we can choose joy. I am rooting for you!

Joyful Learning with my 3 Girls

This story was personal. May the blessings reach far.

From our family to yours,  

Joy @


Author Joy Brownlee. Written and Photography copyrights
to Joy Brownlee @ for the photos bearing Joy's watermark.

3 thoughts on “My Allergic Reaction Story

  1. Joy,
    Thank you for sharing your painful journey. I remember the day you asked for prayer when you were going through this
    God NEVER wastes our pain. So impressed with your new lifestyle!
    Love and hugs,

  2. Wow……you have been through much. Over the years I have struggled with health issues. I ended up on a Daniel Fast and now realize I really don’t want to go back and then I find your post. You have encouraged me. Thank you for sharing your story.

    P.S. You have a beautiful family.

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