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Hives - Causes, Side Effects, and Treatment

Hives, also known as urticaria, is an allergic itchy rash of swollen, red bumps on the skin. It is very common: about 20% will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It may occur at any age, regardless of gender.

The rash may appear anywhere in the body and in different sizes. Sometimes the bumps look like a burn on the skin; sometimes they merge and form surfaces of different sizes, and sometimes they cover large body areas. The rash appears and disappears unexpectedly, and it is impossible to predict the order of appearance of the bumps or the reason they outbreak in different places.

It can go away within a few minutes, but for many patients, this condition may return and even last for a long time, sometimes even months or years. In most cases, the rash disappears within a few hours.

Hives that lasts over six weeks is classified as chronic hives.

Causes and Risk Factors

Hives are caused by an inflammatory in the skin that releases various substances from the cells of the immune system, such as histamine.

In some people, it may follow exposure to an allergen that causes the inflammatory response.

The most common allergens:

  • Food: Some people can be sensitive to milk, various nuts, eggs, fish and chocolate. In addition, there are supplements such as salicylates and sulfites that can cause allergy.

  • Medications: Almost all medicines can cause hypersensitivity and hives. The most known are penicillin, aspirin, ibuprofen, and high blood pressure medications.

  • Other substances: animal fur, insect bites and more.

  • Environmental factors such as fever, cold, various infections, exposure to sunlight and stress can also lead to the release of histamine and cause hives.

  • There are certain situations where physical irritation of the skin like itching may cause hives - this condition is called dermatographism.

Side Effects and Complications

Apart from itching, in rare cases, hives can develop into breathing complications and even loss of consciousness. A severe allergic reaction can also cause an anaphylactic shock. In this situation, a narrowing of the airways occurs, causing an inability to breathe along with a sharp drop in blood pressure. These conditions require immediate medical intervention.

Home Treatment for Mild Hives

  • Try over-the-counter anti-itch drug.

  • Apply cool compresses.

  • Take cool baths – use a special hypoallergenic moisturizing soap.

  • Avoid any food that worsens the itching and rash. You should avoid trying new and unfamiliar foods.

  • Fabrics made of synthetic fibers cause the body to lose its moisture and worsen the itching and dryness. It is therefore advisable to choose clothes made from natural fibers: 100% cotton or silk which allow the skin to breathe. Furthermore, it is recommended to choose loose clothing and avoid perfumes and woolens.

When Should You Seek Medical Care?

If any of the following occurs, please visit Premier or call 911 immediately:

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Pain in the abdominal

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or wheezing

  • Weakness, dizziness, or loss of consciousness

  • Hives that last over three days

  • Hives that are swelling

  • New hives after two days

  • No improvement in the symptoms