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Hives 101

Oct 20, 2021

Hives (urticaria) are a skin reaction that produces bumps and raised patches on the skin’s surface. The itchy and swollen appearance of hives can make the condition seem contagious, but it is not. The skin condition is often triggered as a symptom of another disease (strep throat, common cold) or as part of an allergic reaction.

Hives don’t conform to any one form of representation. Instead, they range from minor bumps to large patches of inflammation. In some cases, hives can trigger severe swelling that can grow into a life-threatening emergency.

Most cases of hives will resolve on their own within 24 hours. However, if hives don’t resolve and persist for six weeks or more, you may have chronic hives. Dermatologists can diagnose and treat all forms of hives to alleviate discomfort, identify a cause, and prevent further development.

Hives Symptoms

When your immune system springs into action, it triggers the release of histamine, which causes symptoms of hives such as:

  • Itching
  • Skin rash or swelling
  • Redness on the skin

The symptoms of hives often appear suddenly and last for a few hours. However, some symptoms may last longer than others. If you have persistent or recurring hive symptoms, seek proper diagnosis and treatment from a board-certified dermatologist.

Hives Causes

Your body’s immune system can mistakenly release histamine and other chemicals for a variety of reasons. However, the most common triggers for hives are:

  • It can occur anywhere on the body but most often on the face, neck, chest, or arms.
  • Solar urticaria is a sun allergy that produces hives within minutes of sun exposure.
  • Infection. Commonly related to Strep throat, a UTI, or COVID-19.
  • Medical treatment. Known reaction during radiation therapy or after a blood transfusion.
  • Skin aggravation. Clothing types or repeated rubbing of straps can cause hives.
  • Heat reaction. Cholinergic urticaria is an allergic reaction brought on by a rise in skin temperature.
  • Allergies. Food, bug bites, latex, medications, pets, plants, and pollen can cause hives.
  • Cold Urticaria. A medical condition that causes welts to form on the skin when it is exposed to cold temperatures.
  • Undetermined. Millions of people never find the cause for their hives.

Hives Treatment

Treatment for hives depends on how long the hives last, how much of an area they affect, and the cause.

The goal of hives treatment is threefold: control the itching, prevent more hives, and avoid the triggers. Common remedies for hives provided by dermatologists include:

  • Anti-itch lotions.
  • Antihistamines.
  • Corticosteroids.
  • Injectable medications. (Omalizumab or Epinephrine).
  • Light therapy.
  • Other medications. (Cyclosporine, or hydroxychloroquine).

Individuals experiencing swelling of the mouth or throat, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, or difficulty swallowing must seek immediate treatment at an emergency room.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michael Bukhalo at Arlington Dermatology has provided five-star dermatology services for over four decades. He and his friendly staff deliver innovative medical techniques to treat a variety of skin conditions effectively. Contact us at 847-725-0824 for a skincare consultation or schedule an appointment online