Hives are itchy skin rashes that are usually caused by an allergic reaction. Initially, hives appear as raised, red bumps. Hives can appear anywhere on the body, including the tongue or throat, and they range in size from as small as ¼” to 10”. The duration of an outbreak of hives may be as short as a few hours.
Hives develop when histamines are produced in the body as a reaction. Histamine production causes the tiny blood vessels, known as capillaries, to leak fluid. When the fluid accumulates under the skin, it causes the red bumps that are hives. Hives often itch uncomfortably.
There are several different types of hives, the most common of which include:
Caused by ingesting certain foods or medication or through infections. Insect bites may also be a cause.
Chronic urticaria and angioedema: Usually affects internal organs and the exact causes are unknown, except that it is allergy related.
Physical urticaria: Caused by direct physical stimulation of the skin, such as extreme heat or sun exposure, this form of hives develops in about an hour.
Dermatographism: Hives formed after aggressive stroking or scratching of the skin.
What are the symptoms?
The skin swellings associated with hives are called wheals and are usually round, pink or red bumps. The skin surrounding the wheals may also be red.
Symptoms of chronic urticaria and angioedema include muscle soreness, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Who gets it?
Though allergic symptoms differ with each person, anyone who has allergic tendencies can get hives. There are no tests for hives, only for the allergens that may trigger them.
The best treatment for hives is to identify the allergic component and eliminate it from the patient’s lifestyle. In the case of medications, however, this may not be feasible. Antihistamines may provide temporary relief and seem to be preventive when taken regularly, not just when an outbreak occurs. For chronic hives, oral corticosteroids may be prescribed.