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Last Updated: Oct 28, 2021
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Hives - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

About Signs Causes Diagnoses Treatment Precautions Recovery Diet

What is Hives?

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.

Can Hives be a sign of something serious?

It has often been observed that hive causes also include allergic reactions. If you are sensitive to any type of food item, medication, plant, insect bite, etc. You may experience itching on the skin. Although if the itching is followed by symptoms like:

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Spinning
  • Irritation in throat
  • Vomiting

One should immediately consult a healthcare advisor as it can be due to a serious allergic reaction.

What causes hives?

  • Hives are generally caused due to allergic reactions resulting from sunlight exposure, insect stings, chemicals found in certain foods or medications which release a chemical called hisamine.
  • Acute urticaria (hives which last for more than six weeks) are caused due to the consumption of certain foods, infections, medications and insect bites.
  • The most common food products that cause hives are milk, berries, eggs, tomatoes, fish, chocolates and nuts. Some food additives also contribute in causing hives.
  • Angioedema and chronic urticaria are caused due to cancer, infection, hepatitis and thyroid diseases.
  • Physical urticaria is caused due to exercise, sweating, pressure, vibration, sun exposure, heat and cold.
  • > Drugs such as codeine, blood pressure drugs, ibuprofen and NSAIDs (Non anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause hives
  • Dermatoraphism is a form of hives which occurs by scratching or stroking the skin.

Do Hives spread by scratching?

It is advisable to keep your hands off your body if you feel like itching as Hives can flare up and spread further if you scratch the irritated area. Try to put moisturizer or cold compress to soothe the itching, but do not scratch it.

Why do Hives get worse at night?

Yes, during the night our body defense mechanism lowers its pace making the itching worse. The secretion of natural anti-itch chemicals is lower during sleep time.

What is Hives Diagnoses?

Hives are diagnosed by performing routine blood tests and skin tests. This is usually performed under the supervision of a certified gynecologist.

When should you see a doctor for Hives?

Hives are generally not a life-threatening disease, although they can cause severe damage to the body if not taken care of. In most cases, Hives do not have any other symptoms except the uncontrollable itch, but one should seek medical care in case it shows the following signs:

  • Swelling in facial muscles
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing

What is the Treatment of Hives?

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.

What gets rid of Hives fast?

Home remedies are known to have instant effects on the skin of an individual. In the case of Hives, most of the time home remedies will treat the unbearable itchy skin. Here are some of the things you can try at home:

  1. Cold compress technique: It is one of the simplest yes effective for itchy skin. Dip your towel in a bowl of chilling water or keep ice in between a dry one, dab the towel on the affected area in the frequent internals of 1-2 mins for the next 15 mins. Since it has no side effects, you can use it as much as you want.
  2. Anti-itch solution bath and moisturizer: Products like oatmeal and baking soda can give you relief from itching. Just add a handful or two in your bath water and see the effects. You can also use products like aloe vera and witch hazel post-bath to moisturize. They are known for their anti-inflammatory and cooling properties which are best suited for itchy Hives. It is advisable to do a patch test before applying it to the whole body.
  3. Chemical cosmetics: Soaps, moisturizers, and other skincare cosmetics often contain chemicals that may irritate your skin and cause a flare in the itching. Use products that are designed to use during Hives or which are suitable for sensitive skin ( for example calamine lotion). It is advisable to avoid any product which contains artificial fragrances.
  4. Keep it cool: Body heat or warm temperatures can make the Hives itching worse. Keep your surroundings cool and put on a cold compress in case the itching is unbearable. Wear lightweight breathable clothes for better ventilation.

How long can Hives last?

In the case of acute Hives, the symptoms may last for only a couple of days or maybe a week. They started to fade on their own as they came. This can be due to any seasonal viral or mild allergic reaction.

In the case of chronic Hives or chronic urticaria, the itching can last up to six weeks or more. It is quite rare as it is not associated with any underlying medical condition.

What food causes Hives?

There is no specific food item that can cause itching. But if you are allergic to any consumables then that case it can trigger Hives. Allergies to food items like dairy, seafood, nuts, poultry products, etc. can cause episodes of itching.

Can baking soda help Hives?

Yes, baking soda is a natural antiseptic that is commonly used amongst people to cure skin allergies. In the case of Hives, one can use it in bath water or moisturizer to soothe the skin in case of a flare-up. Use it with cold water for effective results.

Summary: Hives can be described as an uncontrollable sensation of itching on the skin. It can be due to an allergic reaction or an underlying medical condition. It is not a serious condition until followed by any other signs.

Popular Questions & Answers

I felt my vaginal side upper area is extremely itchy. It bcom dry after itching and then white patch appears on that area. It's not too much but very small patch. I don't know why it's happening and what could be the best treatment for vaginal area.

M.B.B.S, Post Graduate Diploma In Maternal & Child Health
It could be just vaginal infection or coexisting with urine infection. In any case, there is no cause of worry. With right treatment it will get cured. If you would like to discuss or initiate treatment, you can contact me.

Fungal infection on both hands. Blisters, cracks very bad itching, skin peeling. Diabetic and taking vildagliptin+metformin. Tried allopathic treatment. Steroid cream, moisturisers but no cure.

MD - Dermatology, MBBS, Senior Residency - Dermatosurgery & cosmeotologist
Dermatologist, Mangalore
Steroid should not be used without proper prescription. It may ght have made your fungal infection more resistant to other treatments. Consult online, will need to evaluate the lesion properly.

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