What is Hives?
Hives or urticaria is a condition in which you develop red, itchy bumps on your skin. The appearance of hives is not limited to certain body parts and varies from person to person. Hives generally appear in one part of the body, then spread to other areas over time.
In many cases, hives appear suddenly and will go away on their own or improve after consuming medications. Persistent hives that do not disappear after a few weeks are symptoms of chronic hives that need immediate treatment.
Hives are a fairly common health problem and afflict many people. Hives are not a contagious disease.
Causes of Hives
In general, the cause of hives is when your body reacts to objects or substances that trigger allergies (allergens) and causes your immune system to release histamine substances. Histamine combines with other chemicals in the body, causing inflammation and fluid build up under your skin – hence the appearance of hives.
The following are common allergens that cause hives:
- Certain medications, including certain types of antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as aspirin and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or medications to treat high blood pressure
- Certain types of food, such as peanuts, eggs, strawberries, wheat and their preparations and food preservatives
- Other infections, including flu, fever, and hepatitis B
- Bacterial infections, such as bladder infections and strep throat
- Extreme temperatures or significant changes in temperature
- Insect bites or stings
- Loss of hair from animals such as dogs, cats, horses, etc.
- Plant pollen
- Mites or dust
- Tight-fitting clothes
- Habit of scratching your skin
- Sports activities
- Indication of a more serious illness, such as cancer or thyroid disease
When to See a Doctor for Hives
When consulting with your doctor about your hives, your doctor will likely perform a physical examination and ask you several questions regarding your recent food history, activity history, when your symptoms first appeared and your past health history.
If necessary, your doctor may also perform tests such as allergy tests, blood tests, and skin biopsies to form a diagnosis. Additional screening is usually required if you have been exposed to hives for several times.
The appearance of hives can be a symptom of complications of other health problems, such as angioedema or swelling of the deeper layers of the skin due to the fluid buildup. Angioedema usually affects your eyes, lips, and genital area.
In addition to angioedema, hives can also indicate anaphylaxis, or a chronic allergic reaction that occurs suddenly and may lead to a fatal condition. Other anaphylactic symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain and vomiting
- Narrowing of the airways that trigger shortness of breath
- Swelling of eyelids, lips, hands and feet
To distinguish if you have mild symptoms of hives or a symptom of angioedema, your doctor will likely ask you about your medical history.
Skin tests are also one of the ways to help your doctor identify what substances trigger your allergies, while regular blood tests may be done to determine if you have an underlying health problem.
Consult a dermatologist immediately if you develop hives on your skin along with the following symptoms:
- Wheezing cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Swollen tongue, lips or face
Symptoms of Hives
In most cases, symptoms of hives include the appearance of red, itchy skin rash which is usually oval in shape. The rash may feel hot or sore.
Symptoms of hives can last from a few hours to several days.
Hives are divided into two types based on the duration of occurrence, namely:
- Acute or short-term hives. Acute hives usually last for less than six weeks.
- Chronic or long-term hives. Chronic hives usually last more than six weeks and often recur for months or even years. This type of hives is rare and when it occurs, it usually indicates other diseases such as type 1 diabetes, thyroid, and lupus. Chronic hives are susceptible to women of ages 30 to 60 and people who have allergies.
Treatment for Hives
In mild cases of hives, hives will resolve on their own without the need for special treatment. However, in cases of hives that occur repeatedly over a certain period, taking medications may be necessary. Medicines to treat hives are antihistamines, corticosteroids, leukotriene agonists, and omalizumab.
Some medications to treat hives are not safe for pregnant women – unless prescribed by the doctor.
Treatment Cost for Hives
Treatment cost for hives varies, depending on your choice of hospital, the severity of the hives, and the medical procedures taken. For more details regarding the estimated treatment cost for hives, hospital recommendations, and making doctor appointments, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Hives
To prevent hives, it is necessary to identify the trigger. It can range from hot temperatures, consumption of certain medicines or foods, or stress. Once identified, avoid the trigger as much as you can.
You can take some preventive measures such as:
- Reduce or avoid alcohol consumption
- Avoid the consumption of certain types of medications
- Manage stress practice meditation or other relaxation techniques
- Choose a type of soap or detergent that is safe and friendly to your skin
Home Remedies for Hives
Hives usually go away on their own, but there are several practices you can undertake to prevent hives symptoms from worsening, such as:
- Compress the area with a cloth soaked in cold water
- Sleep in a room with cool temperature
- Wear light, loose clothing to avoid more itching