Dealing with Hives: Causes, Risks, Symptoms and Treatment

December 06, 2018

Find out how to deal with Hives. Learn causes, symptoms, risk factors and treatment options for Hives.

Hives are transient red swellings on the skin that often itch. It can appear on any part of the skin, varying in size from as small as a pen tip to as large as a dinner plate.

A hive often goes away in less than 24 hours. New hives may appear as old ones fade, so hives may last for a few days or longer. The ones that last less than 6 weeks are called ACUTE HIVES and the one which lasts more than 6 weeks are called CHRONIC HIVES.

Acute Hives often result from an allergy or intake of a few OTC medications, but they can have many other causes. The medical term for hives is Urticaria (ur-tih-CARE-ee-uh). When large hives occur deeper under the skin, they are called Angioedema (an-gee-oh-eh-dee-ma). This can occur along with hives and often causes the eyelids and lips to swell. If this occurs, one needs to get immediate medical care.

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The most common signs of hives are slightly raised, pink or red swelling
Hives can occur alone or in a group, they can also coalesced into a large area.
Skin swelling that subsides or goes away within 24 hours at 1 spot but may appear at another spot.
As for the symptoms that you feel, hives usually itch and hurt or sting sometimes.Some people who get hives in the same spot or spots on their body are allergic to specific triggers. Every time they are exposed to that trigger, they get hives.

What triggers hives?

Some of the common triggers that incite an allergic reaction are:

  • Foods: Fruits (especially citrus fruits), milk, eggs, peanuts, fish and certain
  • GLVs (green leafy vegetables.
  • OTC Medicines.
  • Insect bites and stings.
  • Touching something to which you are allergic, such as latex.

Other causes of hives are:

  • Infections caused by some bacteria, fungi or parasites.
  • Exposure to the sun (solar urticaria), heat, cold, or water.
  • Pressure on the skin, such as from sitting too long.
  • Contact with chemicals.
  • Scratching the skin.
  • Hives can happen within seconds to minutes of exposure to a trigger. You may even have a delayed reaction after more than two hours.

Treating Hives:

If you continue to get hives on a regular basis, consult a dermatologist.

To find out what is causing your hives, a dermatologist may review your health history, ask questions, and or do a physical exam.More often than not, getting to the root cause of the problem is tricky and may be a challenge in some cases.

Based on your condition, your dermatologist may prescribe the following tests or medication:

  • Allergy tests (on the skin or blood tests).
  • Blood work (to rule out an illness or infection).
  • A skin biopsy

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He/she may prescribe Antihistamines/ Anti-itch medications to relieve symptoms like itching, sometimes an oral immuno-suppressive medication is also prescribed on the basis of severity.

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If the hives become severe, you have difficulty swallowing or breathing, its important to get immediate medical care. Hives may be a sign of an internal disease.

Article by Dr. Kranthi Kumar Varma, M.D (Dermatology)
Consultant Dermatologist, CallHealth
Have a question? Consult Dr. Kranthi online.

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