Hives can be described as an allergic or other reaction to environmental or food triggers. Hives appear as swollen welts or patches on the skin and are red and itchy. This condition can last for a few hours or for days. A more serious condition called Angioedema can also occur and this is characterized by swelling under the skin. Even though this condition is rare, its occurrence in the throat, on the tongue or the lungs makes it difficult to breathe and hence, one needs to go for a proper treatment for hives.
What causes hives?
Hives can be caused by allergic reactions to some chemicals in the food, insect bites, some unexpected reactions to medications and even sunlight. The body releases the chemical histamine, which causes plasma in the blood to leak from blood vessels close to the skin. This manifests in the form of hives.
There are different types of hives and the most common form is caused due to the intolerance of certain foods. Common foods are chocolate, eggs, fish, soy, wheat and milk. In fact, hives can also be caused by food additives like colors and preservatives. Medications like over the counter pain killers and blood pressure drugs have been known to cause hives in users.
Diagnosing the condition
Hives is easily diagnosable in most people because of food or medication. Shell fish also causes severe reactions. Observation by patients and questions by doctors can help determine the exact cause. One episode of hives doesn’t need testing and medication. Doctors usually recommend seeing an allergist or expert to diagnose, test and give
How to manage and treat hives
- The first thing to do is to find out what causes the outbreak. This will help to avoid triggering an attack. In most cases, mild cases disappear on their own without the need for medicine. If it doesn’t subside, then the next step is to take an anti-histamine.
- Do see your doctor regardless. If the condition doesn’t subside in a few days, it is even more important to seek medical help.
- Your doctor will prescribe oral anti-histamines and even cortico-steroids to reduce the swelling.
When to call the doctor
Hives affects a large number of people at some time in their lives. Since it can be triggered by any substance, it is important to note the cause and see a doctor immediately. Emergency medical help should be sought in the following cases:
- One has burning, itching and welts in the throat or the skin
- If you notice hives, coughing, sweating, dizziness or trouble breathing. This can be due to an insect bite, a specific food, or medication.
- Doctors will prescribe epinephrine. If epinephrine is available at home, use it. If symptoms still don’t subside, then seek emergency medical help.
- If your throat, tongue and lips are swollen, seek a doctor’s help immediately so that air passages are cleared.
It is a good idea to keep emergency epinephrine pens handy for immediate relief. Epi-pens are usually available by prescription. Tell friends and family about your problem so that they can administer emergency care in case of problems.