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Hives (Urticaria)

Hives, also known as urticaria, are a common allergic reaction that involves the outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps or plaques that suddenly appear on the skin. The size of the rash, location on the body, duration of a hives outbreak, and the triggers vary from person to person.

Symptoms of Hives

Hives can appear suddenly and disappear within minutes to hours. Sometimes hives can last for weeks or months at a time, but this is very uncommon. Hives can affect 20% of people in their lifetime. Symptoms of hives include:

  • Clusters of red or skin-colored welts (wheals) that can appear anywhere on the body with clearly defined borders
  • Welts that vary in size and shape and appear or fade repeatedly over a period of time
  • Itching, which varies in severity from mild to severe
  • Painful, burning sensation of the skin where the rash appears

Typically, hives alone are not life-threatening. However, it is common for hives to be accompanied by swelling on the body (angioedema). If you experience swelling or itching in the throat, mouth, lips, or face that causes difficulty swallowing or breathing, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

Causes of Hives

There are many triggers that can cause hives to develop, including:

  • Alcohol or food. Common foods that can trigger hives are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, eggs, and dairy.
  • Environmental allergens, such as plants, pollen, and pet dander
  • Certain chemicals, such as household cleaners and detergents
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Medications
  • Stress
  • Exposure to heat or cold
  • Exercise (hives can even worsen if exercising in very warm or very cold temperatures)
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Infections
  • Scratching, contact, or pressure on the skin
  • Autoimmune disorders

Diagnosis and Treatment of Hives

A majority of hives flare-ups resolve on their own within minutes to hours and do not require medical attention. However, if your hives persist for longer than a few hours, are accompanied by angioedema (swelling of the face or airways that cause difficulty swallowing or breathing), or interfere with daily life or sleep, there may be an underlying issue requiring medical evaluation. Hives that last more than 6 weeks are labeled chronic urticaria. At Frontier Allergy Asthma and Immunology, our allergy specialist will work with you to evaluate your hives, discover your triggers, and recommend a personalized plan of care unique to your needs. Although a thorough discussion of your medical history may be enough for your allergist to create a plan of care, further diagnostic options include blood or skin tests. These can help identify and rule out common triggers that may be exacerbating your hives. Your allergist will likely recommend medication and avoidance strategies that can alleviate symptoms and prevent additional flare-ups of your hives.

Next steps

If you are interested in further discussion about your specific needs, Dr. Reshamwala is happy to see you and answer any questions you may have. Please call (512) 535-2655 or email to schedule an appointment today! Book an appointment

Written by: Dr. Neha Reshamwala
NPI number: 1780874578
Page last reviewed: 03/20/21

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