Hives affect about 20% of people at some point in their lives. These red or skin-colored bumps can appear and disappear quickly, cause itching, and range from mild to severe. They may burn or sting, and cover large areas of your body.
Hives aren’t always a medical concern and usually fade within 24 hours, but if they recur regularly, you’ll want to know their cause.
At Regional Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center, the experienced team wants you to know why hives occur and how to prevent them.
Hives are a type of rash, but not all rashes are hives. They’re raised bumps, or welts, that appear on the surface of the skin. Hives appear suddenly and may come and go. When you press on the center of a hive, it turns white in a process called blanching.
The medical term for hives is urticaria. Acute urticaria describes hives that last less than six weeks. If you have chronic urticaria, your hives happen at least two times per week for more than six weeks.
Three major causes of hives
Hives can develop due to many factors. Sometimes, the exact cause of your hives can’t be identified. Spontaneous urticaria are hives that don’t have an obvious cause.
Hives may result in response to one of three major triggers:
1. Allergic reaction
Often, hives are a type of allergic reaction. When your body mistakenly releases histamine, hives can develop. You might have a reaction to a certain food, medication, pet’s dander, plant, or bug bite.
When we suspect an allergy, we can help you identify your hive triggers. You may have skin testing, which involves pricking the skin with the suspected allergen and monitoring your reaction. This can help you avoid the allergen or get immunotherapy so you build up immunity to it.
2. Physical stimuli
Some people suffer from physical urticaria. These hives are triggered by the sun, heat, or the cold and can be chronic.
In sensitive people, pressure on the skin from tight clothing, scratching, or the touch of a backpack strap can lead to hives.
Physical exertion can also lead to hives. Known as exercise-induced urticaria, these hives can’t be cured, but we can help you can manage them with medication or behavior modification. Keep track of the types of exercise that cause your reaction and any other factors, like foods you eat before your workout.
3. Medical conditions
Chronic hives usually develop because of a medical condition. Viral or bacterial infections can cause chronic hives, as can a medical condition like the autoimmune disease lupus.
In these cases, we treat the underlying condition to alleviate discomfort from hives and eliminate or reduce outbreaks.
If you have mild hives, treatment isn’t usually required. They may disappear on their own, and you may grow less sensitive to the trigger that caused them.
If you do have severe hives and they cause serious itching and swelling, avoid wearing tight clothes and taking hot baths or showers that irritate the hives.
An over-the-counter antihistamine can also help calm down any allergic reaction. If you have chronic hives, we may recommend certain prescription drugs and allergy treatment.
If you’re concerned about hives, contact Regional Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center in Kingsport or Johnson City, Tennessee, or Abingdon, Virginia. Call our office today or send us a message here on our website to book an appointment and be evaluated. We want to help you find relief.