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What are hives?

Hives, also known as urticaria, is a skin condition in which there are reddish bumps or elevations on the skin, like a rash. Generally triggered as an allergic response, hives are of varying sizes and may last for a few days or disappear spontaneously. Acute hives are the hives which resolve in less than 6 weeks. Most hives disappear in a few days. However, chronic hives can last for more than 6 weeks without treatment.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

  • The classic symptom of hives is elevated bumps on the skin.
  • These bumps can be red, pink or skin coloured.
  • There may be some itching or burning sensation around the elevations.
  • The hives can spontaneously appear and disappear or arise in new areas on the body.
  • Blanching is a term used to describe the whiteness that appears when the skin over the hives is pressed.

What are its main causes?

  • Allergy is the most common cause of hives. There are a variety of allergens specific to people.
  • Food items that can cause hives are fish, milk, chocolates, nuts, oysters, shellfish, etc.
  • Insect bites or certain medications like sulfa drugs can also cause urticaria.
  • Systemic diseases like hepatitis and malignancy can also cause chronic hives.
  • Exposure to sunlight, cold, heat, etc causes physical hives.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

There is no specific diagnostic test for hives. Based on your symptoms, the doctor will ask you about your recent habits, food, known allergies, etc. It may take a while before the cause of the allergy is determined. If an infection is suspected, a blood investigation is advised. To confirm the allergic nature of hives, IgE blood tests may be ordered by your doctor.

Once the cause has been identified, hives are treated by eliminating the cause from your diet or avoiding exposure to it. Medicines like anti-histamines are helpful in giving relief from symptoms. In severe cases, adrenaline injections are given to treat hives. If hives are associated with other diseases or infections, they usually resolve once the disease is treated.

  1. Medicines for Hives
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