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Hives
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Hives are generally defined as raised, itchy, red welts on the surface of the skin. Hives are also known as Urticaria. They occur usually due to an allergic reaction to food or medicine.

Causes of Hives

Hives commonly occurs in a form of reaction particularly in people with allergic like hay fever. It is because when a person have an allergic reaction to a substance, then histamine and other chemicals are released into the bloodstream, which is turn leads to itching, swelling and other symptoms.

There are various substances known which lead to the development of hives such as Medications, Shellfish, fish, buts, eggs, milk and other foods. Certain substances like pollen, animal dander especially of cats and insect bites also lead to the formation of hives.

Hives may also develop form infections like mononucleosis or illness including lupus, leukemia and autoimmune diseases. It also occur due to extreme cold or sun exposure, excessive perspiration and emotional stress.

It has been found that if swelling or welts occur around the face particularly around the slips and eggs then it is known as angioedema. Swelling from angioedema can also be seen around the hands, feet and throat, hives is a case of hives that lasts longer than six weeks.

This can happen to anyone but it is most common in woman aged 40-60 years. Chronic hives can last for months or even years but this is rare. Other common causes of Hives are like infections such as viral illnesses, allergies to cosmetics, soaps and detergents, Transfusion of blood or blood products and physical agents such as sunlight, water, pressure, etc. Risk factors for hives and angioedema are like-A previous case of hives or angioedema and Family members who have hives or angioedema.

First of all, proper diagnosis is made as the treatment depends upon the type of hives present. Normally, skin or blood tests are done to confirm the presence of hives. Generally if the hives are mild, then they do not require any treatment and they may disappear on their own.

In order to reduce itching and swelling, cool compresses are applied to the welts. This may reduce swelling and pain. If a large part of the body is affected then soak in a cool bath. Person should avoid hot baths or showers. Person should also avoid irritating the area with tight fitting clothing.

In case of acute hives antihistamines should be taken regularly. The older antihistamines can cause sleepiness when the therapy is started. After two weeks, the sleepiness generally improves or resolves.

The newer antihistamine, which normally does not produce any sleepiness are also considered to be effective in treating to be effective in treating hives. Some medications such as cimetidine or ranitidine are used to reduce stomach acid secretion and are used along with antihistamines.

Oral steroids are also used for the treatment of hives but they do not respond to antihistamines. Epinephrine is used for severe cases of hives. Epinephrine is a powerful blocker of histamine release and has a rapid onset of effect but it lasts only for a short amount of time in the body.

Symptoms of Hives

Itching is the most common symptom. There is seen swelling of the surface of the skin into red or skin coloured welts also known as wheals, with clearly defined edges. The welts may enlarge, spread and join together the form larger areas of flat, raised skin.

They can also change shape, disappear and reappear within minutes or hours. The welts tend to start suddenly and resolve quickly. When a person press the centre of a red welt, it blanches, that is it turns white. Person should seed a doctor if he/she feels tightness in the throat, shortness of breath. Tongue or face swelling, fainting wheezing, etc.



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