Hives can be caused because of allergies to one or more things.
Hives, medically known as urticaria, are common rashes that anyone can get at any point in their lives. They can happen only once in your life, keep happening often, or stay longer (chronic) for more than 6 weeks.
Hives can be caused because of allergies to one or more things. Things that commonly trigger an allergic reaction include:
Other less common causes of hives include:
How fast hives can appear depends on the trigger. Most of the time, they appear within minutes to a few hours of exposure to the trigger. Some medications may even take days or years to give rise to hives.
What do hives look like?
Hives vary in appearance:
- Hives may look like big bug bites that can last from minutes to months.
- They can be red or skin-colored bumps or wheals that usually appear suddenly and go away just as quickly.
- Hives can appear anywhere on the body.
- They may be as small as the tip of a pen to as big as a dish plate.
- They can change their shape and place where they appear.
- They disappear and reappear over short periods.
- On pressing them, they blanch, which means their redness disappears temporarily.
How are hives diagnosed?
The doctor usually diagnoses hives by looking at your skin. They will take your medical history and check for any possible triggers. Finding the cause of chronic hives can be difficult. The following tests can help in identifying the cause:
- Allergy tests (that are done directly on the skin or through blood tests)
- Routine blood tests (including WBC count, liver function tests, kidney function tests)
- A skin biopsy (removing a piece of your skin to examine it under a microscope)
How to get rid of hives fast?
An oral pill of an antihistamine medicine is the most common treatment and the first line of therapy to get rid of mild to moderate hives fast. They are very effective in relieving itchy skin. Your doctor may prescribe you a combination of a few antihistamines if you do not get relief from one.
If you have developed hives for the first time (acute hives), you may just receive a single dose of the medicine. If you suffer from chronic hives, you may have to take this medicine once daily for several days to prevent the hives from coming back.
Other medicines that dermatologists prescribe to treat hives include:
- Corticosteroids: These are given for severe hives and only for the short term.
- Epinephrine (adrenaline): This is an emergency medicine that is given as an injectable when swelling (angioedema) of the face, lips, tongue, or throat also develops along with the hives.
Chronic hives are commonly treated with:
- Antihistamine: Usually higher doses of antihistamines are given.
- Dapsone (antibiotic): This medication effectively reduces the swelling and redness of hives.
- Omalizumab (monoclonal antibodies): If antihistamines do not work, injections of omalizumab are given under the skin. This drug works by reducing the sensitivity to allergens.
How do you stop getting hives?
Chronic hives disturb your work, sleep, and other activities. Avoiding known triggers is the most important and effective way to stop getting them. You can take allergy tests to identify the hidden triggers.
Here are some other ways that can help you:
- Wear loose, light clothing
- Avoid scratching the skin
- Use mild soaps (avoid harsh ingredients)
- Soothe the affected area with a fan, cool cloth, moisturizer, or anti-itch cream
- Apply sunscreen before venturing out in the sun
When should I go to the doctor for hives?
You need to visit the doctor right away if
- There is swelling of the face, tongue, or throat (angioedema).
- You face breathing trouble.
- Over the counter antihistamines fail to relieve the hives within 24 hours.
If hives come on and off for more than 6 weeks, schedule an appointment with your doctor who will evaluate you thoroughly and prescribe the right combination of medicines.
Medically Reviewed on 10/16/2020
Urticaria. Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/762917-overview
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