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What are Hives?

Hives (urticaria) are skin lesions that are itchy, red, often raised and look somewhat like mosquito bites but can be bigger.  Most individual hive spots last a few hours to about a day, but new hive spots may appear as others are fading away.

What Causes Hives?

In some cases, hives are triggered by allergies.  Food, drugs, insect stings can be the culprit.  Sometimes bacterial or viral infections can cause an acute outbreak.  Even exposure to heat, cold or sunlight can cause hives. Often the cause remains undiagnosed which is called idiopathic urticaria. While most cases of hives go away in a few hours to a few weeks, however some individuals may experience chronic hives.

What are the Symptoms of Hives?

The main symptoms associated with hives include:

  • Red skin
  • Raised bumps
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation

How are Hives Diagnosed?

Hives are typically a self-diagnosable condition and can be easily identified by its symptoms. It is relatively common since approximately 15 to 25% of people will have hives at some point in their lifetime. Hives can form as a response to a trigger, so if you develop recurrent symptoms keep a diary which may help you identify any potential allergies. This can be helpful when you give your history to the allergist and can guide any testing. Sometimes hives triggers can be internal, rather than in your environment and blood work can help identify these potential causes as well.

How are Hives Treated?

There are several ways that you can treat a hives flare-up. First, try cold compression and use an ice pack to help reduce itching and inflammation. Antihistamines, many of which are sold over the counter, are often helpful.  If your symptoms persist, consult an allergist at Carolina Asthma and Allergy who may prescribe other medications to relieve symptoms.