Just what are hives anyway? How do I know if I have them? How can I go about treating them, and what causes hives allergy in the first place? Read on to get some insight into one of the most common skin ailments in the world.
Simply put, hives are an allergic reaction that manifests as welts or red bumps on the skin. They can range in size from no bigger than a MnM to as large as a saucer. These bumps usually occur due to the body releasing histamine, due to coming into contact with an external irritant, which causes the itching and inflammation.
So, what is hives allergy and how do I figure out which one is the culprit?
The issue here is that almost anything in the world can be a trigger. Hives, are known as urticarial by doctors. Up to 20% of the population will suffer from them at least once in their lives. Luckily, the condition does not often recur and rarely lasts longer than 6 weeks.
Common irritants are items such as food, medication, cosmetics, insect bites, chemicals, infections, and even heat and cold. Only a few lucky people that get hives, manage to track exactly what their trigger is because the hives occur after eating certain foods or being stung etc… for most others it can be very beneficial to keep a diary (in the case of persistent hives) to help you narrow it down.
Common food allergens can include eggs, milk, nuts, fish and shellfish, berries, chocolate, and tomatoes. Sufferers of chronic hives also report that coffee, alcohol, and tobacco often makes attacks worse although they don’t usually cause them.
Reaction to medication can also cause hives, and although this can happen due to any medication there are a few common sources. These include ASA and other anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen), ACE inhibitors such as ramipril, lisinopril, and enalapril, antibiotics, iodide, antiepileptic medications, anesthetics, vancomycin, and codeine.
Switching up your cosmetics, soaps, perfumes and lotions can also cause reactions, as can nickel in jewellery and latex in gloves or condoms.
As mentions, there are many infections that can cause hives to appear. Hives can even be a reaction to photosensitivity, heat sensitivity, or cold sensitity. Other common triggers include friction, swimming, exercise, pressure from belts and straps, and pregnancy.
Symptoms and Complications of Hives
As mentioned, hives are itchy, red welts on the skin. Sometimes they are joined together in on big rash, and sometimes they spread out to form smaller raises. They’re usually slightly raised, with the edges of the rash being the most inflamed.
Acute hives usually last for around 24 hours, but can repeat for up to 6 weeks. Chronic hives, however can last for much longer than 6 weeks. Sometimes the rash goes more than skin deep and is accompanied by sever swelling and pain, this condition is called angioedema.
Angioedema can cause very bad swelling in the mucous membrane of the lips, mouth, gut, genitals, or throat. If your hives come with dizziness, difficulty breathing or throat swelling, then you should seek medical help immediately.
When trying to find out what the cause of your hives is, doctors will usually try to determine what you did that was different from what you usually do, in the last few days. Blood tests usually don’t reveal much about the causes of hives. If you are experiencing chronic hives, your best bet is keeping a diary of what you ate, what you used, and what activities you undertook each day. That way, when you experience another attack, you’ll have more likely suspects.
You can treat your hives medically or naturally.
There are many products available for you to try these days to help soothe your hives allergy. Thankfully, we even have non-drowsy medications available to us now. Common drugs include antihistamines like hydroxyzine or diphenhydramine desloratadine, cetirizine, loratadine, or fexofenadine. Severe hives or angioedema can be treated with adrenalin injections (sometimes called epinephrine). Adrenalin constricts blood vessels, which reduces swelling. Corticosteroids may be given orally (by mouth) or topically (onto the skin) in extreme cases, but never for very long.
All medications have common names and brand names. Consult your doctor or pharmacist to determine if the product you are taking simply has a different name where you live
Natural home remedies for hives allergy usually help to either cool the skin or relieve itching.
Try include applying a cold compress to the affected areas. Cold shrinks the blood vessels and blocks further release of histamine. To relieve itching, add colloidal oatmeal to your bathwater, or apply calamine lotion or milk of magnesia. Witch hazel is an astringent, which also helps shrink blood vessels so that they don’t leak so much histamine.
Hives allergy are uncomfortable, but they are usually harmless and disappear fairly quickly. It is usually only necessary to seek emergency medical treatment if you develop hives around your eyes or in your mouth or experience difficulty breathing, wheezing, light-headedness, or dizziness. This may mean you have anaphylaxis, and the internal tissue swelling can block breathing passages. In such cases doctors may a rapid-injection form of epinephrine for you to carry in case you develop anaphylaxis.