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Hives (Urticaria)

Hives (urticaria), those blotchy patches of red, slightly elevated skin (wheals) that blanch or whiten when touched, affect one person in five and are likely to develop as a result of eating certain foods or in conjunction with viral infections.

They are usually intensely itchy, especially when located in areas covered by hair or in the webs of toes or fingers.

The acute form of the disorder is caused from the release of histamine by the body’s mast cells. Onset of the acute form of hives may be dramatically swift, with symptoms showing within minutes of exposure to a causal agent.

The original wheals fade rapidly, but they also tend to migrate.

Hives may show up as part of a more general or systemic reaction with anaphylactic shock a possibility. Consequently, the appearance of hives should act as a signal to watch closely for the appearance of other, possibly lethal, signs.

If the lesions persist for more than six weeks, the condition is termed chronic. What provokes the chronic form of hives is much more difficulty to establish. In about 70-80% of cases no cause can be found.

Hives can also be associated with numerous chronic diseases, including hypothyroidism, systemic lupus erythematosus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, lymphoma and some cancers. The mainstay of treatment is antihistamines to reduce itching.

For very serious cases of chronic hives, your doctor may also prescribe Cimetidine, a drug that has generally been used to treat acidity associated with ulcers. For chronic relentless cases, steroids may be used.



Category Principal Offenders
Food Eggs, peanuts, nuts, chocolate, berries, seafood, tomatoes, milk, cheese, yeast
Food additives Tartrazine, benzoates
Drugs Penicillin, aspirin, and sulfonamides especially; almost all other drugs possible
Insects Bites, stings, body material
Inhalants (rarely) Pollens, dust, mold, animal dander
Infections Viral infections, parasitic infestations, hepatitis, abscessed teeth
Systemic disease Rheumatic disorders, hyperthyroidism, certain malignancies
Psychological factors Extremes of tension, stress, anxiety