Hives - Describe Your Experience

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What are hives (urticaria) and angioedema?

Hives (medically known as urticaria) appear on the skin as wheals that are red, very itchy, smoothly elevated areas of skin often with a blanched center. They appear in varying shapes and sizes, from a few millimeters to several inches in diameter anywhere on the body.

It is estimated that 20% of all people will develop urticaria at some point in their lives. Hives are more common in women than in men. One hallmark of hives is their tendency to change size rapidly and to move around, disappearing in one place and reappearing in other places, often in a matter of hours. Individual hives usually last no longer than 24 hours. An outbreak that looks impressive, even alarming, first thing in the morning can be completely gone by noon, only to be back in full force later in the day. Very few, if any other skin diseases occur and then resolve so rapidly. Therefore, even if you have no evidence of hives to show the doctor when you get to the office for examination, the diagnosis can be established based upon the accurate accounting of your symptoms and signs. Because hives fluctuate so much and so fast, it is helpful to bring along a photograph of what the outbreak looked like at its worst.

Swelling deeper in the skin that may accompany hives is called angioedema. This swelling of the hands and feet, as well as the lips or eyelids, can be as dramatic as it is brief.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Allison, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 04

I have suffered with hives, swelling of eyes, lips, tongue and difficulty in breathing for 25 years. I took Benadryl every day; until it no longer worked. I had every food allergy test done; nothing. I was scared to even travel. This condition was getting worse. Until I was rushed to the emergency room and had to use 3 EpiPens to get it under control. That doctor sent me to a specialist. In ten minutes she diagnosed me with chronic urticaria angioedema. It changed my life. I take 20 mg of Reactine with a 150mg Zantac twice daily. The two medications create a block to having a reaction. I do not exercise at least 2 hours after eating. I still have at least 4 to 5 full blown reactions a year. I carry 2 EpiPens at all times. The older I get, the more severe the breakouts are. But I feel I have control of this now. Twenty years ago I would use an EpiPen at least twice a month; not good for your heart.

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Comment from: terri, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 23

About 6 weeks ago I woke up covered with hives. I thought it was due to stress and lack of rest as a distressing situation was going on in my life. About the 4th week, I finally went to the doctor and was given prednisone which initially seemed to be helping but in the end did nothing. I went back to my family doctor... blood work came back normal. I am taking Zantac and Zyrtec but they are not helping. The hives cover my whole backside, my chest, stomach, and abdomen, arms, legs, and feet. They are on the bottom of my feet which is painful. I woke up with a fat lip and hives on my face this morning. I have found a cream called fluocinonide that is helping with the itching.

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