Hives, also known as urticaria is n allergic reaction to some food or medicines. It shows up as red spots and swollen bumps on your skin. They are common and in most cases, disappear on their own. However, in case of a severe allergy, it can stay long term and become chronic.
Symptoms of hives
- Swollen, pale red bumps or plaques known as wheals or welts appear on the skin
- The swellings can appear singly or occur in groups or clusters
- The skin rashes become itchy and can flare up
Causes of hives
Common causes of acute hives are:
- Food allergies- peanuts, sea fish, eggs, nuts, etc.
- Allergies from pet dander, latex, pollens, mould, etc.
- From sting and bites of insects like mosquitoes, bees and ants
- Viral infections- hepatitis, strep throat, infectious mononucleosis, common, cold, and UTIs.
- Side effects of medicines like aspirin, NSAIDs and antibiotics (penicillin)
- Physical triggers like too much emotional stress and skin bruises
- Over exposure of the skin to heat and the sun
Complication of hives
Angioedema can result from chronic hives, which involves swelling in the deeper layers of the skin. It can happen suddenly and requires emergency treatment. It can be life threatening if the swelling happens in your throat to block your breathing.
When should you see a doctor?
You don’t require a treatment if the red rashes go away in a day or two. Seek medical help when you observe swelling in your face, lips, tongue or eyes, experience shortness in breath, dizziness and wheezing or tightness in chest.
Diagnosis of hives
Your doctor will physically examine the symptoms to infer that they are hives. You will be asked several questions regarding the foods you consumed or if have been exposed to a substance that have caused the allergy.
In case of chronic hives, you have to undergo CBC test and blood tests for antibody load and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Additionally,
you will be tested for pre-existing condition like thyroid problem or liver disease, etc.
Treatment of hives
Mild allergies are treated with antihistamines and corticosteroids; however, your doctor might consider a specific course to treat chronic hives. It involves controlling the allergic response and avoiding the triggers. Medicines like leukotriene receptor antagonists, ciclosporin, and H2 antihistamines would be used.
Another therapy that your doctor might recommend is narrowband ultraviolet B phototherapy (NUVB) which involves exposing the affected areas of your skin to ultraviolet light, which helps to clear off the rashes.
Home remedies and preventing hives
- Avoid the triggers which you are sensitive too including food, allergens, and emotional stress
- Wear loose cotton clothes, that allow your skin to breathe
- Do not expose your skin to harsh sun rays or heat treatments
- You can soothe itching with cold compress. Take cool showers