Hives also known as urticaria, is a common skin condition that affects up to 20% person of all the people at least once in their life. While many hives eruptions go away on their own some are persistent and severe in nature.
How can you identify hives?
While they resemble bug bites, hives (also known as urticaria) are different in several ways:
- Hives can appear on any area of the body; they may change shape, move around, disappear and reappear over short periods of time.
- The bumps – red or skin-colored “wheals” with clear edges – usually appear suddenly and go away just as quickly.
- Pressing the center of a red hive makes it turn white – a process called “blanching.”
There are two types of hives – short-lived (acute) and long-term (chronic). Neither is typically life-threatening, though any swelling in the throat or any other symptom that restricts breathing requires immediate emergency care.
Researchers have identified many – but not all – of the factors that can cause hives. Here are a few of the most common causes:
- Some food (especially peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish)
- Medications, such as antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa), aspirin and ibuprofen
- Insect stings or bites
- Physical stimuli such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise or sun exposure
- Blood transfusions
- Bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and strep throat
- Viral infections, including the common cold, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis
- Some plants, such as poison oak and poison ivy
- Foods: Don’t eat foods that have been identified to cause your symptoms.
- Rubbing or scratching: Avoid harsh soaps. Frequent baths may reduce itching and scratching – beneficial because itching and scratching can make the hives feel worse.
- Constant pressure: Avoid tight clothing. Pressure hives can be relieved by wearing loose-fitting clothes.
- Temperature: If you develop hives when exposed to cold, do not swim alone in cold water and always carry an epinephrine auto-injector. Avoid exposure to cold air and use a scarf around your nose and mouth in cold weather. If you must be out in the cold, wear warm clothing.
- Sun exposure: Wear protective clothing; apply sunblock.
- Medications: Notify your physician or pharmacist immediately if you suspect that a specific medication is causing your hives.