Did you develop dermatographia shortly after getting your Moderna booster vaccine for Covid 19? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard from tons of you that this is a new (and not welcome) side effect of the shot. If you now have dermatographia, welcome to the club, and I hope it’s not too bad. Hopefully something in this post will help!
I’m going to offer some suggestions for healing your skin, along with sharing the story of Suzanne (a Skintome reader) who also developed skin writing after her booster. (I did get my Moderna booster and it didn’t change my skin at all, but I’ve had dermatographia for most of my life so that’s not surprising.)
But first of all, THANK YOU for taking care of yourself and all of us by getting vaccinated against Covid. It’s a very important step to getting through this pandemic. Secondly, even though I’ve heard of this happening to a lot of people, it’s still extremely rare, so please do not fear getting the booster. And with the risks of Covid and long Covid, getting dermatographia is a piece of cake compared to contracting the virus.
In addition to these tips, I encourage you to check out my Dermatographia page if you haven’t already. There’s suggestions for products for sensitive skin, comments from other readers, and lots of other helpful resources.
For immediate relief, people have been finding Zyrtec and Pepcid extremely helpful. So while you’re working on reducing stress, upping your veggie intake, and healing your gut, an antihistamine might be necessary to get you through those tough initial times. I’ve also heard that this condition gets way better (and sometimes clears up) after a few months, so don’t give up hope! Your skin will keep healing and healing.
Eventually you might want to wean yourself off of the antihistamines. In order to do that, go down to 1/2 a tab, then to 1/4 until you feel like you can handle not taking it at all.
One thing that helps the itch SO MUCH is keeping your skin moisturized. I love Babo Botanicals lotion. It has only gentle ingredients and is super moisturizing and feels wonderful on itchy skin.
Be very aware of what you’re putting on your skin. Most of the stuff from drug stores and grocery stores contains yucky ingredients that could be making your skin worse, like salicylic acid (or derivatives) and anything labeled ‘fragrance.’ You should also watch out for artificial preservatives, artificial sweeteners and food dyes in stuff you’re eating. All of these things can trigger dermatographia and make it worse. I go into this more in my dermatographia articles.
In all of my years of research, and all my years of having dermatographia (aka skin writing), I’ve learned that the most important component to healing the condition is healing the gut. It takes time–sometimes a lot of time–but as long as you do the work, your itchy skin will keep getting less and less itchy.
Here’s some general tips to help heal your gut:
One of the most important things to do is up your water intake to help flush the extra histamine and toxins out of your system. I always talk about this one first because of how important (and potentially easy) it is. Get a huge water bottle to help you keep track of how much you’re drinking each day, or download an app if that’s more your style (it’s like counting calories but instead you’re counting glasses of water). Aim for about a gallon of filtered water a day. It sounds like a lot but your body needs that right now! Moisturized skin itches less, and drinking lots of H2O helps moisturize from the inside out.
Eat fresh, whole foods daily and reduce the amount of processed foods you consume. Incorporate more vegetables in your life! (Side note: I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from eating more veggies lol, and I know it’s easier said than done). Play around with roasting different vegetables, season them with herbs and spices, try baking kale chips, eat more salads, soups, add chopped spinach to scrambled eggs, try an air fryer, etc. Eating fruit is great too, but aim for eating more vegetables than fruit to keep sugar intake low. Can you get at least 5 servings of vegetables a day? The more you eat, the happier your gut will be :=)
Exercise. Yeah sorry, you know that right after talking about eating more veggies I have to bring up exercise ha. Walk, run, do yoga, dance, play sports, hike, jump on a trampoline, swim, whatever floats your boat. It’s so good for your entire body to get your heart rate up and work your muscles. Even just 20 minutes a day makes a huge difference.
Make sure you’re pooping every single day. If not, that signals something is stagnant. Your gut will heal faster if there’s no poop stuck in there. Sorry to be crass, but it’s a very important piece of the puzzle.
Watch your blood sugar. Make sure to eat vegetables and protein BEFORE eating carbs and sugar, and DO NOT eat high sugar things on an empty stomach. This one has been huge for me. I’m very sensitive and am susceptible to crashing from low blood sugar so I have to be super careful. I take apple cider vinegar before breakfast and dinner and that’s helped my blood sugar and digestion SO MUCH! I also make sure to eat plenty of protein because I’m one of those people who really needs it.
To heal your body, you also have to heal your mind and spirit. These aspects of you are not separate from your skin. Everything is connected, so if you have consistent negative thoughts about yourself and your past and future, it will show up in/on your body. I started therapy about 6 months ago and oh my goodness it’s been transformational! I feel like releasing all that old shit from my past has freed up energy for my body to heal. It takes work, and it can be painful, but wow is it worth it. I’m blown away by how much I’ve healed my mind/body/spirit in that short time with the help of my amazing therapist (check out my Dermatographia page to learn about a low cost option for therapy). Show yourself some love and your body WILL heal.
Most mornings I drink bone broth/collagen protein. Having all those amino acids has helped my muscle tone and gut function. It’s not required, but it sure does help. You can either make your own bone broth, or buy it in powder form.
I started using this weird pillow thing awhile back and have found it sooooo relaxing. It’s called a still point inducer and is meant to mimic the benefits you get from Craniosacral therapy. It helps your body relax so fluids can circulate more efficiently. I don’t understand exactly how it works but I do know that for $25 it’s a steal! I use it most nights for about 10-15 minutes before bed and wow does it feel great. It takes a little while to get used to it, but once you do it is SO RELAXING! Stress is a huge trigger for dermatographia, so doing things to reduce stress and anxiety will help your skin and gut heal. If the still point inducer isn’t your thing, find something that is–like yoga, journaling, meditation, mantras, etc. It’s important to calm your nervous system, especially in these stressful times.
In that vein, I also recently started seeing a chiropractor for a neck injury. I found a place near my house that has great rates because it’s walk-in only, and I go once every week or 2. That has not only helped heal my neck injury, it’s also helped my whole body function better/more efficiently. I swear my elimination has improved since I started chiropractic care, and it’s helped me feel less anxious.
These are some of the things that can be super helpful on your healing journey. I’ve also written about the many many other things I’ve been doing to take care of myself over the years here and here. But aside from drinking water, the best thing you can do for yourself is to love your skin. Keep it moisturized and thank it for protecting you and keeping your insides inside. Be careful about what you put on your skin, because some lotions and things can be doing more harm than good. Again, check out my Dermatographia page and other posts for more info on that :=)
Now, without further ado, let’s hear from Suzanne.
Ariana: At first I’d just like to hear more about you: where do you live, where are you from, etc? What was your skin like before this? How is/was your diet and exercise and lifestyle? Have you tried any of the tips I wrote about on Skintome? What types of products do you use on your skin?
Suzanne: I’m 34 and have two kids (6 and almost 3). I grew up in Southern California, lived in New England and then NYC for 15 years, and have been living near Seattle for the last year and a half.
I’ve never really had skin issues before – have always had “normal” skin, not sensitive to perfumes/detergents/foods/ etc. No allergies. I would say my diet/exercise is pretty standard. I don’t follow any specific diets, try to eat mostly organic when possible, and focus on veggies/plant based foods, though I eat meat/fish/poultry each about once per week. I exercise about 3-4 times per week – love running, yoga, and any group exercise class at the gym!
Ariana: I’m also interested in exactly what your doctor said–did she say why people are developing dermatographia after getting the booster?
Suzanne: As I mentioned in my comment, I developed a circular patch near my right elbow a couple weeks after getting my first Moderna shot in Jan 2021. At first I thought it might be ringworm, but it never spread beyond that one patch, which finally dissipated about 9 months after it appeared. Then I developed a raised bump on my left ring finger about a month after getting my second Moderna shot in Feb 2021. It’s still there. I got my Moderna booster in early Dec 2021. About 10 days later, I woke super itchy and after a day or so, noticed raised red welts developing anytime I scratched. At first I thought it was a reaction to drinking red wine the night before (something I rarely drink, and which can be a migraine trigger for me), but when the rash persisted for several days I made a doctors appointment. Could only get in to urgent care, and I told the doctor I had researched the rash and it looked like dermatographia. She told me no, that’s definitely not it, gave me an oral steroid which she said should calm my skin and stop the itching. I was hesitant to take the steroid, but desperate to get rid of the itch. The steroids (which I took for 5 days) did nothing to help my skin, and just made me feel crazy! I had also tried benadryl, which didn’t seem to help either. I saw my regular primary care doctor last week. She agreed it was dermatographia and mostly just empathized that she knew it was very itchy and irritating, but there wasn’t much she could do. I was grateful at least for her honesty!
She suggested I try Claritin and said it might take a month to see any effects. She also said she’s seen a few patients who have developed dermatographia following the Moderna booster, and agreed that was likely what triggered it, though she didn’t give any reasoning and did say she hopes that doesn’t deter me from getting another vaccine in the future (if recommended). Said it was really just a “wait and see” to tell if it would get better, and when.
Since reading your blog more after determining this was in fact dermatographia, I stopped using soap (just a basic oatmeal bar from Trader Joe’s) except to wash my underarms. I’ve been using sweet almond oil in the shower, after showering, and before bed, concentrating on some angry red patches that developed on my arms and legs from all the scratching. I also started taking Magnesium since that is supposed to help with inflammation. I’ve taken it before to help with my restless legs when pregnant and it just generally helps me feel a lot better! I also started taking Claritin.
Over the last 5 days the dermatographia has significantly improved! I haven’t had a huge flare up in a couple days (was having multiple episodes per day where I just could not stop itching, felt like my skin was crawling!), and even when I do a “scratch test” it turns red, but the welts aren’t as raised as before. Not sure what has helped it improve, but I’m going to keep doing everything (almond oil, magnesium, and Claritin) for a couple more weeks, and then stop the Claritin to see what happens.
Ariana: That is such great news! I’m glad to hear your skin is getting better. Another thing I highly recommend is oil pulling with coconut oil, and scraping your tongue before and after. It’s a great detox, you just have to get used to doing it in the morning. I thought of that because you mentioned red wine is a trigger for you, and it’s a headache trigger for me too. I think it’s an inability to properly process the sulfites or tannins or something. Detoxing and healing my gut have worked wonders for me. I get less headaches and my skin is way better! I also feel much better when I’m running/dancing/doing yoga regularly. And drinking boatloads of water too of course 🙂
Suzanne: Will definitely give the coconut oil pulling a try. I’ve read about it for years but never actually tried it. Is there a particular type of coconut oil you recommend? I usually just buy mine for cooking at Trader Joes.
Ariana: I love the Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil, but Trader Joe’s would work too. Whatever tastes best to you, so you’ll actually want to use it every morning. Let me know how it goes when you try it!
Thanks again! I’m so excited about this!!
Please note, this post contains affiliate links. I may be compensated if you purchase through the links provided, at no extra cost you. I encourage you to purchase things locally, but if you do decide to order with the links, then thank you for supporting the Skintome community!
Hannahon February 16, 2022 at 10:44 am
I also got dermatographia after the Moderna booster! It’s been a month of straight hives now and I feel like I’m losing my mind 🙁
Arianaon June 26, 2022 at 4:44 pm
I’m sorry to hear that Hannah! I hope you find relief.
Lindsayon February 16, 2022 at 5:33 pm
Hello! 11 days after my Moderna Booster I started getting dermatographia. It’s been 12 days of itching, hives and skin writing. I’m 24 weeks pregnant, so I was trying to avoid an antihistamine until it started impacting my sleep. So far I’ve taken Claritin for 3 days and it seems to help ease the itch and help me sleep again but it hasn’t changed seemed to change how red my skin gets when I scratch or touch it. Really hoping this gradually clears up on its own. Thank you for all the info!!
Arianaon June 26, 2022 at 4:44 pm
You’re welcome! I hope you’ve found some relief.
Tayloron February 21, 2022 at 9:25 pm
Does it ever completely go away? I have a friend who is struggling with this after her booster and is curious as to if this ever goes away?
Arianaon June 26, 2022 at 4:41 pm
It does seem to go away for some people. Maybe have your friend try some of the things I suggested here and in other posts? She might find relief. Here’s hoping!!
Angieon March 5, 2022 at 5:51 pm
I too developed symptoms of dermatographia a few weeks (2 to be exact) after my Moderna booster but I also experienced a lot of stress over the last weeks so difficult to tell if it’s the booster or not, or a combination.
Arianaon June 26, 2022 at 4:45 pm
Stress will def make it worse! I hope you’re finding some relief.
Sarahon March 16, 2022 at 6:49 am
I developed dermatographia a few months ago and could NOT figure out what was going on. It is unbearable some nights and keeps me up because I can’t stop itching! It wasn’t until talking to a friend last night who also had it that told me it was probably related to the Moderna booster and it all made sense. Thank you so much for sharing some of these tips, I definitely plan on trying them.
Arianaon June 26, 2022 at 4:46 pm
You’re welcome! I hope you find something that helps!
Ericaon April 13, 2022 at 10:42 pm
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I have been losing my mind trying to find answers about what’s going on with my body. My allergist told me it’s chronic hives but something about our conversation made me feel skeptical. After searching far and wide for 2 months and going to the ER without any resolutions, I finally landed here and I am ever so thankful for this and you.
I am typing this in happy and frustrated tears because I feel like I finally have an answer. I didn’t realize that this could be due to my Moderna booster. My allergist ruled that out and I didn’t have a second thought about it until recently. Again, I am so so thankful for this! Thank you, Ariana.
Arianaon June 26, 2022 at 4:33 pm
Erica thank you so much for your comment! I’m so glad you found me and Skintome! Welcome, and you are so welcome 🙂
Please let me know if you have any questions, and I hope your healing journey is going well.
Heatheron July 13, 2022 at 6:54 am
I feel so seen. My allergist did say that he’s seen some stuff happening after the vaccines but to see so many others experiencing the same thing as me, it’s validating. I started having CIU or dermatographia in January after my third Moderna booster and I’ve gotten a handle on it with Allegra and Pepcid, but it was a nightmare at first. I still wish it would just go away. Thanks for sharing your story, at least we’re not alone. Which is really something when this can make you feel crazy at times. Take care of yourself everyone!
Arianaon August 28, 2022 at 3:16 pm
Thanks for the note Heather! I hope you’re finding some relief.
Hannahon August 29, 2022 at 6:19 am
Heather- same. I started getting them in January after my 3rd Moderna shot as well and have had them since then. They’ve gotten better over the last 8 months and now are manageable with Zyrtec but are still around and still very annoying. On recommendation from my allergist I’ve been taking 4(!) zyrtec pills a day for the last 8 months. One thing I’m wondering- does anyone know if there are long-term impacts of taking so much anti-histamines??
Heather Son August 29, 2022 at 7:18 am
Mine have gotten more manageable too but still there. I went to Allegra bc I can take just one of those a day, it used to be twice a day. If you want to try around with different kinds of allergy meds bc I found Allegra to not make me sleepy like Zyrtec. Honestly I asked my doctor and he said everything has risks but the trade off is to live with crazy hives all the time or take the allergy meds sooo. He didn’t seem worried about me taking them. Not medical advice but my mother in law has had to take multiple dose allergy meds for years and it’s fine. It’s obviously not the ideal situation but they’re relatively low class drugs. If you’re concerned or want to try different methods I’d definitely go back to your doc after 8 months they should be working with you to try something if you’re not comfortable. All the best!!
Hannahon August 29, 2022 at 7:23 am
Thanks Heather- good to know. I assume I’ll just stay on them until hopefully the hives die down more. But I just worry about long term medication. Good to hear about your experience though, thank you for responding!
Arianaon October 2, 2022 at 3:03 pm
Hi Hannah! I would say that if you have concerns about the longterm use of antihistamines, it’d be beneficial to try making diet/lifestyle changes and see if that makes a difference. That way, as your body heals you may be able to wean yourself off the meds. Just a thought! The priority is for you to be comfortable and feeling good :=)
Samon September 21, 2022 at 10:30 pm
I developed it about 2 weeks after my moderna booster- it was so bad at the start that even having my hair brush against my neck would send my skin into a massive flair up! I tried two rounds of oral steroids (to no help, sadly) and the only thing that kept me sane was taking hydrochloride hydroxyzine before bed to ease my hives and using a cosmic butt ton of calamine oil. 7 months later, I think I’m free! I still notice my skin being super super sensitive to scratching, and I’ve developed some bad eczema which I am still unsure if it was a consequence from the dermatographia wearing off (id never had it previously and now it’s all over) but the skin writing is no longer visible. If more boosters come out it will be a big debate if I will receive them. Overall, super weird experience but kind of fun to show if my skin writing to friends when it wasn’t at its worst lolol
Arianaon October 2, 2022 at 3:07 pm
Yay congratulations! I’m glad to hear you’ve found some relief, and hopefully you can figure out the eczema piece. Thanks for writing in!
Kathy Purdyon October 3, 2022 at 2:52 pm
So glad to have found you and give a name to this condition. The first time I had this was 50 years ago after flu shot. Within 24 hours I was covered in hives and had them for 1-1/2 years. It disappeared and I have never had another flu shot since. Especially because no doctor would believe or investigate about it being a reaction from the shot. I have not had another flare up ever since.
I had a lot of fear of the covid shots for this exact reason but was more afraid of covid . So I decided to get all 3 Moderna. Within a month of getting the booster I am again full blown rashes. I use Claritin, rub coconut oil on spots and just started using an ice pack. That is helpful at times. I am waiting to see an allergist. Can’t wait to learn more along with you!
Arianaon October 8, 2022 at 3:59 pm
Thanks Kathy! Please let us know what you learn :=)
And I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with doctors not believing you. It’s very disappointing that they’re unwilling to investigate this connection!
Lisa Son November 22, 2022 at 1:43 pm
I developed dermatographia after receiving the J&J vaccine. Started about 10 days after the vaccine. And 14 months later, I still am dealing with the unbearable condition.
kathyon November 22, 2022 at 10:59 pm
Yes, I noticed it about 3 weeks after. Going on almost a year now. I did just start using Arnica gel on the hot spots and I feel really encouraged that is might be calming the spots with in a few minutes. It could be worth a try for you,
Carolineon December 13, 2022 at 12:44 pm
I got my bivalent Moderna booster on 11/26 and 12 days later woke up with skin rash/hives everywhere. I am seeing an allergist and suspect dermatographia. It’s only been one week of this itch, but I am feeling so frustrated. Even my clothes touching my skin seems to cause problems. I also will be seeing a dermatologist but can’t until February.
I also have recently been diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. I am already on a low FODMAP elimination diet for GI issues and don’t notice any improvement with the skin. I am on multiple medications already so am hesistant to take lots of anti-histamines. Has anyone’s dermatographia gone away after booster? I did not have this prior to booster and am not even sure it’s related.
Tom Lon January 29, 2023 at 11:54 am
Also really glad I found this! 1.5 weeks after my Moderna bivalent booster in early November it started. For me it started with a rather severe allergic reaction. For about two weeks I was bed-bound, absolutely covered in very swollen, very itchy hives. Barely could walk to the bathroom bc the soles of my feet and even my joints were swollen. I definitely have a chronic condition now, but nothing compared to those first two weeks. Anyone else had a similar progression? Or do I have something different after all?
The allergist I have been seeing actually never called it dermatographia. If I scratch myself it definitely gets red and itchy, but it doesn’t look as clear and ‘neat’ as what comes up when looking at pictures of dermatographia. Maybe on my back I would be able to write a legible word, but not on my forearm. Also, totally manageable with Pepcid and Allegra. As soon as I stop taking it for a day I get itchy again though.
Tom Lon January 29, 2023 at 12:03 pm
Actually, I take back what I just said. I just tested it, and I can totally write on my forearm haha. I guess I just never tried it before. 😉 But it in fact doesn’t look as ‘neat’ as all the pictures on this website.
Also, sorry, could neither figure out how to edit my previous comment nor how to ‘reply’ to it.
Maddyon February 20, 2023 at 8:38 pm
Wow I am so grateful to have found this post and site. Over 1 year ago (1 yr and 1 mo) I broke out in fully body hives 10 days after the moderna booster; I’ve never had any allergic reaction (not even seasonal allergies) before so I was really worried.
I’ve gone to about 10 different doctors and the first 9 just wrote me off with chronic hives and said they would just go away after 14 days…. here we are 1 year later. I knew something bigger was going on and luckily the 10th doctor confirmed I have dermatographism. He doesn’t know what the cause is, but does not think it was the booster (without any explanation). Regardless, if I can’t figure out the root cause I at least want to manage the symptoms.
I currently use zyrtec (2 x 10mg a day) and am seeing a tolerance build up on the drug. I am getting increasingly nervous that one day I will have to live with these hives… thankfully this post gives me some hope!!
I plan to test out other anti-histamines and if they work try switching every 6 mo so my tolerance doesn’t build.. but am also thinking about an AIP or elimination diet to see if that helps taper off the medicine… I also need to be more diligent with moisturizing, and maybe an oatmeal bath might be helpful. I will update if anything changes!