what are hives?
Urticaria, also known as hives, is an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps or plaques (wheals) on the skin that appear suddenly — either as a result of the body’s reaction to certain allergens, or for unknown reasons.
Hives usually cause itching, but may also burn or sting. They can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, lips, tongue, throat, or ears. Hives vary in size (from a pencil eraser to a dinner plate), and may join together to form larger areas known as plaques. They can last for hours, or up to one day before fading.
Angioedema is similar to hives, but the swelling occurs beneath the skin instead of on the surface. Angioedema is characterized by deep swelling around the eyes and lips and sometimes of the genitals, hands, and feet. It generally lasts longer than hives, but the swelling usually goes away in less than 24 hours.
Some hives triggers include food allergies, medications, insect bites or stings, latex, pollen and pet dander.
There are two types of hives – short-lived (acute) and long-term (chronic). Neither is typically life-threatening, though any swelling in the throat or any other symptom that restricts breathing requires immediate emergency care. Chronic hives occur almost daily for more than six weeks and are typically itchy. Each hive lasts less than 24 hours. They do not bruise nor leave any scar.
Antihistamines are usually prescribed to provide relief from symptoms. Antihistamines work best if taken on a regular schedule to prevent hives from forming in the first place. Your provider at ClearlyDerm may also prescribe creams or lotions to reduce the symptoms of hives.
Chronic hives may be treated with antihistamines or a combination of medications. When antihistamines don’t provide relief, oral corticosteroids may be prescribed. A biologic drug, omalizumab (Xolair), is also approved to treat chronic hives in those at least 12 years of age.