Hives also known as urticaria (in medical terms) are usually short lived reddened itchy bumps on your skin. It is more in women than in men for no apparent reason. An interesting feature of hives is its varying nature. Hives that are seen flaring up in the morning would almost disappear by noon but re-appear before night. Hives will not last in the same place for more than a day.
Facts On Hives :
- Hives are raised itchy bumps on the skin ranging in many size and shape.
- Hives are marked by characteristic itchy welts on the skin and itching can range from moderate to severe.
- Hives would disappear quickly as it comes but may reappear in other place of your body.
- Exact cause of hives is still not known.
- Under normal condition, hives flare up acutely.
- In rare cases hives are caused by environment factors like extreme weather condition and heat.
- Repeated scratching and stress can intensity hives.
Hives Types :
Hives can be acute (short lived) or chronic (lasting more than few months). Chronic form of hives is not serious but they can disturb the quality of life in interfering with sleep and daily routine. It is difficult to treat and diagnose chronic hives. Repeated testing should be done to identify the right cause. Your doctor would get a chart of complete medical history and personal habits. It is better to avoid certain allergic foods permanently if you have chronic hives.
Causes Of Hives :
- Exact cause of hives is not known. It is believed to be caused when excess of histamines are released in the body from the mast cells. Histamines have the capacity to leak the fluid from the blood vessels which in turn appear in the form of red welts on your skin.
- Hives are a nuisance and annoying but it requires no treatment and fades quickly as it comes.
- Hives can be triggered by vigorous exercise and using pressure bands on the body.
- For some people hives are caused due to allergic response to certain foods or medications or insect bites. Even coming in contact with pollutants can trigger hives. Drugs like aspirin, morphine or codeine and other NSAID’s can also cause hives.
- Exposure to hot or cold weather can cause hives. Harsh sunlight can also trigger hives.
- If you have a recent viral infection you are likely to develop hives.
- Stress can trigger and intensify hives but is not known to cause hives.
Hives Symptoms :
- Batches of white or red welts are found on the legs, arms and even on the face. Hives normally flare up acutely without any known cause.
- Welts can appear in many places of your body causing intense itching and swelling. But it goes away on its own within few hours to again appear in some other place. Welts caused by hives vary in size and shape.
- It can cause burning pain in some parts like eyes, cheeks and lips.
- Hives get intensified due to excess of heat and exercise.
- Hives may continue to re-appear in the body for many months in some people.
In rare cases, hives can cause difficulty in breathing due to anaphylaxis. In such cases, seek prompt medical help. The bronchial tubes can get narrow causing shortness of breath and choking. The person may feel dizzy and sometimes pass out. People with chronic disorders like arthritis, thyroid problem, diabetes and lupus are at risk of developing hives and varied complications.
Hives Diagnosis :
Your doctor would first complete physical exam thoroughly. He may ask questions regarding your personal habits, and any new medications you have taken. He may request for blood test and other allergy tests to identify the cause of hives.
Hives (Urticaria) Treatment :
Very often, no treatment is required for hives that come and go promptly. You can get comfort with OTC pain relievers and antihistamines. You can contact your GP if the symptoms do not improve with home remedies. Your doctor would identify the underlying cause first before treating the hives. He may check the thyroid level and other chronic issues in your body. Antihistamines like Loratadine, Cetrizine, Levocetrizine and Clarinex are effective in managing itching. You can also try Benadryl or chloropheniramine if the above drugs are not giving relief.
Histamine blockers like Zantac, Pepcid and Nizatidine can be taken orally or injected for severe cases. Prednisone and other steroid medications can help in reducing swelling and itching. But remember to take these pills only for short term since it can be addictive. Topical creams that contain corticosteroid can be applied generously. Antidepressant drugs like Zonalon can be prescribed for hives. For people with chronic hives, a shot of Xolair is often effective for several weeks.
- If you have hives avoid going out in sunlight.
- Wear loose cotton clothing.
- Use wet compress over the affected area repeatedly.
- Try to identify the triggers so that you can avoid it in future.
- Avoid certain foods from your diet as instructed by your doctor.
- Stay away from dust and other pollutants since it can worsen the symptoms.
- Practice yoga and meditation techniques to prevent stress.