Hives are also known as urticaria. Hives are a harmless type of skin allergy or rash that is most often caused by an allergy. The rash looks like circular and raised welts that appear on the skin and are typically itchy and often occur in batches. The hives can vary in their size, from just a few millimeters to a few centimeters in their diameter. Often hives will affect the trunk, legs, arms, and throat.
Hives can be caused by foods, medication, and insect bites. When the rash lasts for less than six weeks, it is called acute urticaria. On the other hand, if it lasts for longer than six weeks, it is called chronic urticaria. When the condition is one of chronic urticaria, it is more challenging to determine the allergen than when the cause is acute. In the vast majority of cases of chronic hives, the allergen that is the cause is unclear.
There are basically three different types of hives. Ordinary hives come suddenly and for no apparent reason. The welts may appear in several different places. They will flare, itch, swell, and go away in just minutes or hours, only to show up in other places. This can go on for days to weeks.
The second type of hives, called physical urticaria, is the kind of hives that are produced by direct physical stimulation of your skin. The most common form is called dermographia, which means skin writing. This is a form that occurs when the skin is rubbed or scratched. Then a red welt will appear at the line of the scratch.
This most often occurs in areas where the skin is scratched or where belts or other articles of clothing will rub against the skin and cause your mast cells to leak out histamine. Another type of hives that are physically induced are called cholinergic urticaria.
This results in hundreds of small itchy bumps. These bumps occur within about fifteen minutes of being involved in a physical activity or after you have been in a hot bath or shower. They are usually gone so quickly that you will not even need to have them checked out.
Triggers of Hives
There are some substances that are known to be most commonly the causes of hives. First, we have medications, such as codeine, antibiotics, sulfa, penicillin, phonbarbital, aspirin, and anticonvulsant drugs. Second, we have food triggers, such as soy, chocolate, berries, nuts, tomatoes, and shellfish.
Third, we have outdoor issues, such as pollen and insect bites like bee and wasp stings. Finally we have animal triggers, such as cat or dog dander. There are additional causes such as bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, emotional stress, food additives, cold temperatures, heat, sweating, plants, and tight clothing.
Symptoms of Hives
Common symptoms of hives include a sudden onset of red or skin colored welts that look somewhat like mosquito bites, welts that change quickly in terms of their shape, size, and location, itching, welts that remain for about
twenty-four hours, and angiodema, which is the swelling of the face, lips, and tongue. More information about angiodema is at the bottom of the page.
Of course what you hope is that you can figure out what caused the hives, and if you are able to, you should avoid that substance in the future so that you do not have this problem again. On the other hand, sometimes it is impossible to figure out the cause. In the meantime, you have these itchy hives appearing on your body and you need to know what to do.
The first thing to do is use an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl, Atarax, Seldane, or Tagement. Sometimes these medications can cause drowsiness, so keep that in mind when you decide to take an antihistamine. Second, a doctor may be able to prescribe a coricosteroid for you if you have a severe case.
Injections of epinephrine may be used, but only in cases that are life-threatening. There are also some topical creams and lotions which can help you to numb your nerve endings and reduce your itching. Some of these nerve-numbing ingredients include menthol, camphor, pramoxine, and diphenhydramide. Of course, avoiding the cause is of utmost importance to keep this from happening again.
Also, to help you ease the symptoms involved with hives, you may wish to follow a few helpful tips. First, you should avoid the heat and try to keep the temperature of your skin cool, as the heat will aggravate the hives. Second, you should abstain from drinking alcohol, as it causes your skin to flush.
Third, do your best to avoid scratching the hives. I know they are itchy, but itching and scratching makes them worse, especially when you scratch so hard that you cause bleeding, which could result in an infection. Finally, in the meantime, try to wear clothing that is loose that will not put pressure on your skin and aggravate your hives.
Angiodema is similar to hives, but it happens deeper in the skin. Symptoms of angiodema include large, firm, and thick welts, a swelling of the skin, pain or warmth to the touch in the affected areas, blisters in the areas where there is severe swelling present, and trouble swallowing or breathing in severe cases.
Often angiodema occurs near your lips or eyes, but it can also develop on your genitalia, feet, hands, or inside of your throat. Angiodema and hives can occur separately or can occur concurrently. Hereditary angiodema is more serious but uncommon. It can cause sudden very severe and rapid swelling of your arms, face, hands, legs, genitalia, feet, digestive tract, and airway.
The symptoms of hereditary angiodema include a sudden and a severe swelling that is located in the arms, face, hands, legs, genitalia, feet, airway, and digestive tract, abdominal cramping that is the result of swelling in your digestive tract, and obstructed breathing or difficult breathing because of swelling in your airway.
Hives that are mild are not normally life threatening and can be treated at home; however, if you have hives or angiodema that are not responding to treatment or if your symptoms keep appearing after a few days, you should see your doctor. Additionally, if you feel lightheaded, feel like your throat is swelling, or you are having trouble breathing, you need to see your doctor.