Hives
Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics


Possible Symptoms for Hives

1. Welts on the skin

The main symptom of hives is welts that can appear anywhere on and will stand out from the skin.[1] Sometimes, these welts are red in color, but they can also be flesh-colored. They can come together to form one large welt on the skin or change location and shape very quickly.

2. Itching

Hives are generally itchy. In some cases, pain and itchiness can be severe.[2] People sometimes describe hives as feeling like stings or even a burning feeling in the skin. When you start to notice itchiness, stinging, or burning accompanied by welts or bumps, it is usually a good sign that you are dealing with hives.

3. Blanching

Blanching is the term for when the hives on the skin turn white when pressed.[3] It is one of the best ways to determine for sure if the welts you are experiencing are in fact hives.

4. Swelling of the lips, eyelids, and throat

In certain cases, people can experience angioedema, which is a swelling of the eyelids, lips, and the inner throat. This can be painful and even dangerous, but angioedema and the possible life-threatening outcome of it (also known as anaphylactic shock) are very rare potential outcomes of a common syndrome.[4]

Top 5 Causes of Hives

1. Allergic reaction

In many cases associated with hives, the actual cause of the problem is unknown.[5] However, most people who experience this condition have an allergy, or are allergic to something they have come into contact with, and the hives are an allergic reaction. Allergens are known to cause hives can include foods, food additives, medications, bug bites or stings, latex, pet dander, plants, and pollen.

2. Chronic hives

When a person experiences welts that appear for more than six weeks at a time and continue to occur over several years, this is known as chronic hives. Often, the exact cause of this issue is unknown, but it is important to pay attention to how often your hives occur and how long they continue to determine if you have acute hives or chronic hives.[2]

3. Stress

Stress can actually be a trigger for hives. Some people will experience a breakout when they are under extreme pressure, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. For example, people can get hives because they are worried about passing a big test, while others can experience them as a result of physical exertion during exercise. This can sometimes be an embarrassing issue, but like with other triggers, stress-induced hives can be treated.

4. Physical stimuli

Another potential cause of hives is some kind of physical stimuli, which can include being exposed to extreme temperature (either hot or cold), having too much pressure on the skin (such as from a tight pair of pants), or too much exposure to the sun.

5. Infection or illness

Acute hives can sometimes be caused by an infection. However, chronic hives can be a sign of a more severe issue like a thyroid condition or even cancer, but this is less common.[2] More than likely, if hives are related to another problem in the body, they are usually a manifestation of a mild infection, such as strep throat or a UTI.[3]

2 Ways to Prevent Hives

1. Avoid your triggers

In order to prevent hives, consider what triggered the condition before—what you had touched, used, or were exposed to prior to experiencing hives. For example, if you get hives whenever you eat a certain food, you should avoid that food. This is often the best, easiest, and most common way to prevent the problem. Of course, certain triggers cannot be avoided completely, though they can be minimized.

2. Avoid stress

Whatever stress leads to your hives, it is best to avoid it as much as possible. If your body has trouble being in the cold without breaking out into hives, always bundle up before going out on a frigid day. If you experience hives from wearing tight clothing, wear loose-fitting garments, especially when you expect to be on the move.

Possible Hives Treatment Options

1. Wait it out

If you cannot completely avoid an outbreak of hives, try not to scratch or your skin could scar. In most cases, acute hives will disappear after a few days, or if not, within a few weeks.[2] If you are able to breathe normally during an outbreak and do not have any history of anaphylactic shock, you should be able to allow the hives to heal on their own.

However, if you have chronic hives, this condition can take longer to disappear and can return frequently. But, in most cases, the hives will eventually disappear.[3]

2. Antihistamines

These medicines can control hives and other symptoms of allergies. Some people need to take them daily to keep symptoms at bay.[5] The necessary quantity and frequency of use can depend on the strength of the allergy and the commonness of the allergen.

3. Doctor visit

You will need to visit the doctor if you have chronic hives or if your condition worsens. Medications can be given for severe conditions, including a shot if necessary. If you are experiencing anaphylactic shock, this is a rare outcome of an allergic reaction and is a medical emergency. You must get to a hospital immediately.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Hives

  • Have you noticed anything that could have triggered your hives?
  • When did you last experience this issue?
  • Have the placement, look, or feel of the hives changed at all?
  • Do you know if you are allergic to anything?

Hives May Also Be Known as:

  • Urticaria

References

  1. Healthline. Hives. https://www.healthline.com/health/hives.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Chronic hives. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-hives/symptoms-causes/syc-20352719.
  3. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Hives (Urticaria). https://acaai.org/allergies/types-allergies/hives-urticaria.
  4. Kids Health from Nemours. Hives (Urticaria). https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/hives.html.
  5. Better Health Channel. Hives. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/hives.

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