Hives (Urticaria)

Hives, also known as urticaria, are pink welts or swelling that can itch, burn, or sting. Hives can appear on any part of the skin. Approximately 10-20% of the population experience at least one episode of hives in their lifetime.

Causes of hives are many but may be caused by an allergic reaction to certain foods, chemicals, medications. Determining the exact cause can be difficult. Severe cases of hives may cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing. This is considered a medical emergency.

Any medication can cause hives and people may develop an allergy to a medication at any time, even if it is not a new medication. Some antibiotics, blood pressure medications, NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the most common. Infections such as upper respiratory infections, other viruses, as well as bacterial and fungal infections can cause hives. Foods associated with hives include nuts, shellfish, eggs and strawberries.

Hives can be acute or chronic. Acute usually last less than six weeks whereas chronic hives last more than six weeks. The root cause is much more difficult to identify and only a small percentage of patients are able to identify it. Testing, such as blood work or a biopsy, may be necessary.

Treatment for hives is elimination of the cause if possible but antihistamines provide relief and work best if taken on a regular schedule to prevent hives from forming. Your dermatologist may use combinations to control the hives. In severe cases, immunosuppressive medications may be used.

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