Hives are also known as Urticaria in medical terminology. It is characterized by an outbreak of pale red bumps and swollen wheals (plaques) on the skin. It is the body’s reaction against certain allergies for unknown reason.
Hives on the skin usually cause stinging or burning sensation. They can appear on any part of the body such as the ears, throat, tongue, lips and face. It usually varies in size from a dinner plate to a pencil eraser, sometimes they also join together to form plaques (larger area of hives). Angioedema is a form of hives which is characterized by swelling beneath the skin rather than the surface. Signs of angioedema include swelling around the lips, eyes, feet, hands and genitals. The swelling stays for a maximum of 24 hours after which it disappears.Hives and angioedema on its own is not fatal, but it can block the airway passage of the lungs, tongue and throat making it difficult to breathe. This can be life threatening in some cases.
Hives are diagnosed by performing routine blood tests and skin tests. This is usually performed under the supervision of a certified gynecologist.
Angioedema and hives are usually treated with the help of antistamines, oral corticosteroids, biologic drugs, omalizumab (Xolair), epinephrine injections and cortisone medications. It is vital to seek medical help if you experience wheezing, dizziness, difficulty breathing, tightness of the chest and swelling in the face, lips and tongue.
Applying wet clothes or cool compresses on the affected areas, working or sleeping in a cool room, wearing loose fitting clothes can provide comfort and reduce the symptoms of hives.