Hives, also called urticaria are swollen welts or bumps that appear on your skin suddenly.
They itch, burn and sting and can happen anywhere on your body. You can get them on your face, lips, tongue, ears or chest. And in size, they can be as small as an eraser to as large as a plate. They also form plaques and can last for hours or up to several days.
- Acute urticaria - These type of hives last less than six weeks. The most common causes are allergies due to certain foods and medications, or infections. These hives can also happen due to diseases or insect bites.
- Chronic urticaria - Hives lasting more than six weeks come under this category. What causes them is usually more difficult to identify than what causes acute urticaria. In some cases, chronic hives are caused due to thyroid disease, hepatitis or even cancer. This type can affect your internal organs like lungs, muscles, and the gut. Thus, symptoms include muscle soreness, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
- Physical urticaria - These types are caused due to direct physical stimulation of the skin due to cold, heat, sun exposure, vibration, pressure, sweating, and exercise.
What causes hives?
Hives happen mostly due to allergies. Some of the common hive triggers are-
- Certain foods, especially peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish- Fresh foods are more likely to cause hives as compared to cooked foods. Certain food additives and preservatives can also play culprits.
- Medicines like penicillin and sulfa- based antibiotics, aspirin and ibuprofen which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, high blood pressure drugs like ACE inhibitors, and painkillers such as codeine can also trigger hives.
- Insect bites
- Transfusion of blood
- Bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and infected throat
- Viral infections- common cold and hepatitis
- Pollen grains
- Plants like poison oak and poison ivy
- Cold weather
- Pet dander