What is urticaria?
Urticaria is the medical term for hives. It is usually the result of an allergic reaction. Hives appear as raised, itchy bumps on the skin. If you experience hives or a more severe form called angioedema, there are treatments you can get to help them go away. However, many times, hives go away on their own.
The main symptoms of hives are red, itchy bumps that turn white in the center when you press on them. When you have urticaria, you may also develop swelling of the face, mouth, and throat. This causes difficulty swallowing and breathing and could be a sign of anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention. Urticaria can also cause swelling of the hands and feet, and stomach cramps.
Each hive itself can take between 8 and 12 hours to go away. However, an outbreak may last several days. You may see hives develop and disappear before reappearing in another spot. Some cases of hives last for weeks or even months. Chronic urticaria is when your hives last for six months or more.
In about half of the cases, chronic hives go away after one year.
An allergic reaction causes most cases of urticaria. Common allergens that may trigger hives to form include:
Other causes of hives include:
- Exposure to extreme cold
- Too much sun exposure
- Excessive exercise
- Certain infections and illnesses
Who can get it?
Anyone can get urticaria — young or old, it doesn’t matter. Experts estimate that at least 20% of all people will get hives at some point in their life.
Diagnosis for urticaria
To diagnose hives, doctors will look at your skin to examine the spots. They may take a detailed medical history and ask about any allergies.
If you are not aware of any allergies, the doctor may do allergy testing to find out if you are allergic to anything. Doctors normally perform this testing only for cases of chronic hives, not single, short outbreaks. However, nearly half of people with chronic hives never find out what causes their reaction.
Treatments for urticaria
Antihistamines like Benadryl and Claritin are often effective in relieving the symptoms of urticaria. Taking this type of medication at the first sign of hives can help lessen the severity of the outbreak.
You can also use anti-itch lotions to help. If the symptoms are severe enough, your doctor may prescribe medication like Pepcid or Zantac to relieve swelling and itching. Steroids like Prednisone can be helpful in preventing outbreaks in people with chronic hives.
To relieve symptoms of hives at home you can:
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing
- Use cold compresses
- Stay cool in general
- Take a bath
- Avoid known allergens and hives triggers
- Stay moisturized
Allergy testing can help some people with recurring hives outbreaks. However, at least half of the time, no cause of hives is found .
Risks of treatments
There aren’t many risks to the treatments for hives. However, it’s important that you seek medical attention if you experience hives plus swelling of the face, mouth, or throat. This is a sign of a severe allergic reaction. Having hives doesn’t automatically put you at risk of anaphylactic shock, but the two sometimes occur together.
You should also seek medical care if the symptoms of your hives make you uncomfortable. Your doctor can prescribe medication to make you feel better until they go away .
Those taking steroids for chronic hives may experience side effects, including:
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Dermatology Association: "10 WAYS TO GET RELIEF FROM CHRONIC HIVES."
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: "Hives (Urticaria)."
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Hives (Urticaria)."
Harvard Health Medicine Harvard Medical School: "Hives (Urticaria)."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Hives (Urticaria)."
Medline Plus: "Prednisone."
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