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Hives (Urticaria)

 

Hives (Urticaria) are a common condition resulting from allergies and other conditions.  As many as 15% to 24% of people in the United States will experience acute hives and/or angioedema at some point in their lives.*

What are hives?

Hives are raised, often itchy, red welts on the surface of the skin.

What causes hives?

Hives are a common allergic reaction, especially in people with other allergies such as hay fever, or to food or medicine.

Many allergens can trigger hives, including:

  • Animal dander (especially cats)
  • Insect stings
  • Medication allergies
  • Pollen
  • Food allergies

Hives may also develop as a result of:

  • Emotional stress
  • Extreme cold or sun exposure
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Illness (including lupus, other autoimmune diseases, and leukemia)
  • Viral infections such as mononucleosis

What are the characteristics of hives?

  • Itching
  • Swelling of the surface of the skin into red or skin-colored welts (called wheals) with clearly defined edges
  • The welts may get bigger, spread, and join together to form larger areas of flat, raised skin.
  • They can also change shape, disappear, and reappear within minutes or hours.
  • The welts tend to start suddenly and go away quickly. When you press the center of a red welt, it turns white which is called blanching.

Who is at risk for getting hives?

Hives and angioedema are common. You may be at increased risk of hives if you:

    • Have had hives before
    • Have had other allergic reactions
    • Have a disorder associated with hives and angioedema, such as lupus, lymphoma or thyroid disease
    • Have a family history of hives, angioedema or hereditary angioedema

How do you treat hives?

Treatment is determined on an individual basis as prescribed by your physician.  Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our allergy and asthma specialists.

Is there a cure for hives?

Hives may be uncomfortable, but they generally are harmless and disappear on their own.  More severe hives will clear up with proper treatment.

What are the possible complications with hives?

Hives can accompany other dangerous conditions  such as anaphylaxis and  asthma.  Hives themselves can present a danger when they cause swelling in the throat and lead to to life-threatening airway blockage

How can you prevent developing hives?

Hives can be prevented by avoiding the following:

  • Known allergens
  • Emotional stress
  • Extreme cold or sun exposure
  • Excessive sweating

 

*Urticaria: Part 1. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2000; 85:525-531.

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