Hives or urticaria is a common skin rash that affects many individuals all over the world. This skin condition is characteristically elevated, itchy and red and can appear in various sizes and shapes. The rash tends to come and go within a few hours, moving from one area to another. Remember that hives do not normally leave any scars, bruising, peeling or dryness. The itchiness is usually mild but can be severe, but those who have hives do not normally scratch the skin up to the point of bleeding.
Causes of hives
Hives are triggered by the release of histamine into the skin by the mast cells present in the skin and mucous membranes. This can occur during an allergic reaction or in circumstances in which the mast cells release chemicals without the involvement of IgE.
The skin condition can also be instigated by other types of infections such as athlete’s foot, strep throat and urinary tract infections. In studies conducted, it revealed that infection with Helicobacter pylori which is typically linked with stomach ulcers is also linked with chronic hives.
An allergic reaction to medications and foods can also trigger hives. The hives that occur due to a food allergy typically appears within a few minutes to a few hours after eating the food.
The reactions to medications can occur after the initial dose or oftentimes not until the medication has been taken for a week or two such as antibiotics.
Stress is also another common cause of hives. An individual might not feel stressed but the body is already stressed out, especially if the individual has a hectic lifestyle.
Metabolic diseases such as high or low thyroid function, kidney disease and liver disease might be responsible for chronic hives.
Best way to manage hives
The ideal treatment for hives involves the use of antihistamines. These are available in liquid or pill form and can be administered in large or regular doses in order to manage the symptoms.
Short courses of corticosteroids might be required and rarely, if the symptoms are severe, an epinephrine shot is given for immediate but temporary relief. The older antihistamines are too sedating for routine treatment of hives. In addition, they should be taken several times in a day since their effects are short acting.
The newer variants such as loratidine and cetirizine are suitable options for treating hives since these antihistamines deliver a less sedating effect. Most of the new antihistamines are available over-the-counter without requiring a prescription.
In case the cause of hives is known or suspected such as a medication or food, avoidance of the trigger might resolve the symptoms. In most circumstances, the symptoms of hives only last a few days and often the cause is not known. If the symptoms of hives last for many weeks or a couple of months, a doctor should be consulted for proper testing and treatment.