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Experienced Hives Doctor at Dermatology and Skin Health

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What Are Hives?  

Allergic reactions on the skin can manifest themselves in different forms and one of the most common conditions that may appear suddenly is hives. Hives are also known as urticaria and they can develop anywhere on the body as red, swollen, and bumpy rashes. These patches are also commonly referred to as welts or wheals. 

Aside from its unsightly appearance, a hive rash can also feel itchy and have a slight burning or stinging sensation. They’re not contagious, but you can develop them suddenly if you catch an infectious disease such as a cold, strep throat, or urinary tract infection. 

Once you have hives, there’s a possibility that they will migrate around the body. One area of your skin may have redness and itching for a few hours before disappearing and reappearing somewhere else.

What Causes Hives to Appear on the Skin?  

Hives are a normal skin reaction that occurs when your immune system recognizes an unknown substance. To defend your body against potential threats, the immune system will send histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream. Sometimes, histamines can get released unexpectedly even when there is no threat and this can happen in cases of: 

  • Too much stress
  • A skin reaction to extreme cold or hot temperatures  
  • Exposure to UV light and sunlight 
  • Pressure on the skin from wearing tight clothing or scratching 

In some people, hives can occur as a result of an allergic reaction when they come into contact with a specific allergen or touch certain materials that they are sensitive to. Some of the most common triggers for urticaria are: 

  • Insect bite
  • Latex 
  • Parasites sting 
  • Food allergy from shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and eggs
  • Viral and bacterial infections 
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Thyroid disease
  • Pollen 
  • Hay fever
  • Animal dander or pet allergy  
  • Certain oral medications and antibiotics
Schedule Your Consultation Now at Dermatology & Skin Health

At Dermatology & Skin Health, we offer world-class services done by award-winning doctors who have proven their knowledge and skills in this field. Start your journey towards achieving your best skin by contacting us today.

The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Hives 

Hives can be categorized into 2 main types: acute urticaria and chronic urticaria. As with any medical condition, acute hives are short-term skin reactions that can appear suddenly and last no more than 6 weeks. They’re usually caused by an allergic reaction or a viral infection. 

Most acute hives can clear away after a few days or weeks, but they may recur when you are exposed again to a particular allergen. Some of the most common triggers of acute urticaria are an insect sting, medications, and certain foods. 

On the other hand, chronic hives are itchy welts that can last for more than 6 weeks. This type of urticaria can come and go suddenly, and they are less likely to be caused by an allergy. Chronic urticaria may develop due to stress, autoimmune disorders, hormonal changes, or other systemic problems. 

Some people can never identify the cause of their skin hives. In these cases, their condition is known as chronic idiopathic urticaria.  

Physical Urticaria: Another Form of Skin Hives 

There are also other sub-forms of hives depending on the cause and trigger of the skin reaction. The most common subtype is physical urticaria which are hives caused by direct stimulation of the skin. Any excessive rubbing or scratching can cause irritation and lead to a skin reaction. 

Physical urticaria can have other forms such as: 

  • Cholinergic urticaria - a type of hives that develops from an increase in body temperature. They can break out after a particularly intense workout when you’re feeling hot and sweaty.
  • Pressure urticaria - this type of urticaria happens as a response to constant pressure on the skin. This usually occurs along with fatigue, body aches, and body temperature increase. It can also be a result of an autoimmune disease.
  • Solar urticaria - this skin reaction happens when you have sensitivity to sunlight exposure and UV light.
  • Dermatographism - this is a form of localized hives that appears where the skin is scratched. This is one of the common urticarias that can affect nearly 5% of individuals. 

How to Know If It’s Hives or Angioedema 

Like hives, angioedema is usually triggered by an allergic reaction that affects the deeper tissues of the skin. Also known as giant hives, its symptoms are similar to urticaria but it predominantly causes significant swelling around the eyes, cheeks, and lips. The affected area may also feel slightly painful, tender, and warm. 

Angioedema can occur alone or together with acute urticaria. The main difference is that the welt and swelling from hives affect only the surface of the skin, while angioedema affects the deeper layers of the dermis. While it is mostly harmless, rapidly developing angioedema should be seen immediately by a doctor to prevent a serious anaphylactic shock. 

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How Long Do Symptoms of Hives Last?  

Flare-ups of acute hives can happen suddenly and last for around 2 to 3 hours before disappearing. If you have chronic hives, they can appear on your skin at least twice per week and last for more than 6 weeks or longer. Severe hives may need to be seen by a healthcare provider to make sure that they don’t develop into anaphylaxis.  

When Should You See a Hives Specialist?  

Hives aren’t necessarily harmful but they can be a threat if you experience them as a part of a severe allergic reaction. You should immediately consult a hives doctor if you have the following symptoms: 

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing 
  • Facial swelling, especially on the lips, eyelids, and around the mouth 
  • Chest pain and tightness  
  • Rapid pulse 

How Are Hives Diagnosed?  

When you come in for a skin consultation, a doctor will first do a physical exam and visually examine your skin. To identify the possible cause of your hives, you may also be asked some specific questions such as: 

  • When did the hives start?
  • How long have you had the symptoms?
  • Did you get an insect bite?
  • What were you eating or drinking before the rashes appeared?
  • Do you have itchy or painful hives? 
  • Are you taking oral medications? 

If you have suspected allergies, a skin test or blood test may be performed to confirm your trigger. In some cases, a skin biopsy may also be done to get a more accurate diagnosis. 

Schedule Your Consultation Now at Dermatology & Skin Health

At Dermatology & Skin Health, we offer world-class services done by award-winning doctors who have proven their knowledge and skills in this field. Start your journey towards achieving your best skin by contacting us today.

Best Treatments to Get Relief from Hives 

When the cause of hives is confirmed to be an allergen, the most important step is to eliminate or completely avoid the known trigger. However, if the cause is unknown such as for people with chronic urticaria, a dermatologist may prescribe medications to offer relief from hives.

  • Antihistamines - These medications can be bought over the counter or by prescription. They are an effective treatment since they block the effects of the histamines and help control your rashes. It’s important that the prescription medication is taken in sufficient doses to suppress the symptoms and provide lasting relief.
  • Non-sedating antihistamines - The traditional antihistamine medication may have a side effect of drowsiness. A doctor may prescribe non-sedating antihistamine options if you don’t want to experience any of the side effects. These medications can include cetirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex), fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Alavert), and levocetirizine (Xyzal).
  • Histamine blockers - Also known as H2-receptor antagonists, these oral medications help control the activity of the cells in the stomach lining and stop them from responding to histamines. This can be cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), ranitidine (Zantac), and nizatidine (Axid).
  • Corticosteroids - Oral anti-inflammatories like prednisone can also be taken to manage the breakout of hives on the skin. 

Improve Your Skin Condition and Consult With Our Hives Doctor Today

Know the best way to manage your acute or chronic hives with help from our team of experts at Dermatology and Skin Health. Our board-certified dermatologists can recommend the best hives treatment to improve your condition and overall skin health. To discuss your dermatologic needs, give us a call today and request a consultation. 

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