Hives is a common skin disorder that occurs in two forms: raised, red bumps that form on the skin’s surface and swelling or welts that develop underneath the skin around the face, lips, eyes, genitals, hands and feet. This second form is medically known as angioedema. In general, the condition is the result of an allergic reaction to a substance or food such as peanuts or medication. However, you can get hives after physical exertion or from being exposed to environmental elements such as heat.
The lesions caused by hives are not static. They can relocate to different parts of the body and change size, sometimes within hours. The length of time you’ll be affected by hives varies, but the swelling caused by angiodema usually dissipates within 24 hours.
Chronic hives typically resolve on their own, usually within a year. They are generally harmless, but they may be a sign of a more serious medical condition. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you experience other symptoms in addition to the hives.
While there are no medical tests designed to specifically diagnose hives or angioedema, you can easily determine if you have the skin disorder by pressing the center of a wheal. If the skin blanches (turns white) then you can safely assume you have hives.
It’s best, though, to have a doctor or dermatologist confirm the diagnosis, particularly if you’ve had the problem for a long time. The healthcare professional will ask you about your medical history and examine the skin. The doctor may perform a few skin tests such as a biopsy to determine if you had an allergic reaction and what substance caused the hives or angioedema. Routine blood tests may also be done to rule out systemic illnesses.
Types of Hives
Hives are the body’s reaction to internal or environmental triggers. The body releases histamines and other inflammatory substances into the body that cause the blood vessels near the surface of the skin or deep in the body to leak. This, in turn, causes hives. Although the pathophysiology is basically the same in all cases of skin hives, the condition is separated into different categories based on the trigger, the appearance of the hives, and how long a person has them.
These are hives that last for less than 6 weeks. Most hives begin fading after a few hours, but new hives may develop in the wake of the old ones. This is especially true if the person is continuously exposed to the trigger.
Hives that last for 6 weeks or more are classified as a chronic urticaria. Most cases in this class are idiopathic (of unknown cause), but may be the result of an autoimmune disorder.
This is the most common types of hives, occurring in about 5% of the population. It is characterized by welts that appear as a result of scratching, stroking, or firmly rubbing the skin. The skin reacts quickly, usually within 30 minutes, to the stimulus and the welts generally disappear just as fast.
These are hives that form under the skin or on internal organs. After coming into contact with the trigger, the skin begins to swell and may be accompanied by pain or itching. Hives that form in the throat, tongue, or respiratory system can lead to suffocation, so the person affected requires immediate medical attention.
- Urticarial Vasculitis
Individual hives that last longer than 24 hours, are painful, and leave a bruise during the healing process may be urticarial vasculitis. This is a serious medical condition that presents as urticaria but is histologically leukocytoclastic vasculitis.
- Idiopathic Hives
Hives in this category have no known cause.
Types of Hives by Trigger
- Allergies – These are hives that form after contact with an allergen such as shellfish or pollen. The most common food allergens that cause hives are shellfish and peanuts.
- Cholinergic – Hives in this category form after a person’s core temperature rises. Common causes include exercise and contact with hot water.
- Stress – These hives are triggered by stress, typically in relation to life events like bereavement.
- Cold – Exposure to cold temperatures can induce hives. This condition can be the result of genetics or develop randomly in young adulthood (18-25 years).
- Heat – This is a rare form of hives that is triggered by applying heat to the skin.
- Solar – Another rare form of hives that develop within minutes of being exposed to the sun. There are six different types of solar skin hives which are based on the wavelength of the light involved.
- Water – Hives in this category form after a person comes into contact with water. The temperature of the water is irrelevant, and the hives form within 15 minutes to 1 hour after contact with the trigger.
- Vibrations – A person affected by vibratory urticaria will develop angioedema within 5 minutes of coming into contact with vibration. Usually it resolves itself after an hour.
- Exercise – This is different from cholinergic urticaria because the hives only appear after the person begins exercising. Sometimes a reaction only occurs after the person has also eaten a particular type of food like shellfish.
- Medication – Some medications cause urticaria as a side effect.
Top Treatment Options
You’ll find numerous treatments on the market here are the ones that have been proven successful in the order of most effective.
OxyHives is an all-natural homeopathic solution that relieves itchy rashes caused by tiny amounts of fluid that leak from blood vessels just under the surface of the skin. It is comprised of a sublingual spray that delivers the potent blend of ingredients directly into your bloodstream which help oppose the effects of the histamine leaked by mast cells. This mode of therapy helps numb nerve endings and reduce itching which provides immediate relief.
OxyHives has been developed by homeopathic doctors to help relieve multiple symptoms of hives without causing side effects. This formulation has been reported to address the individual symptoms of hives very effectively.
It Works for:
It is found to be effective for acute urticaria where rashes develop suddenly and lasts less than six weeks. Past user experience shows that it is also equally effective for chronic urticaria where rashes persist and last more than six weeks. A six month therapy has shown to provide significant relief in people with recurring bouts of acute urticaria. Even a short term therapy of 2 months provides significant relief for severe cases of hives.
Oxyhives work on various symptoms of hives. These symptoms include:
- Swelling, red- or skin-colored welts with clearly defined edges.
- Larger wheals that combine and expand to form bigger areas of affected skin
- Wheals that recede, comeback and change their forms.
Any Side Effects:
The most commonly used treatments are antihistamines. The main side effect of antihistamines is drowsiness. But unlike prescription medications, Oxyhives does not cause drowsiness or other unwanted side effects. Being homeopathic, it can be safely used by people of all ages.
You should follow instructions on the package about how to take the medicine. However, this oral solution needs to be taken up to three times a day and saves you from applying messy creams or having to remember to take pills. Usually with a 4 month therapy the condition goes away by itself.
#2 Prescription Treatment
A common and effective treatment for mild to moderate hives is an antihistamine. These medications are available by a prescription from a doctor or over the counter from your local store. There are several varieties on the market including Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Chlor-Trimenton (chlorpheniramine).
Antihistamines work best if you take them on a regular basis according to the instructions. These medications can cause drowsiness, so it’s a good idea to use non-sedating versions if you need to drive or are participating in other activities that requires your full mental concentration.
Your doctor can recommend some medications that will stop the hives from forming in the first place. If you don’t gain relief from your condition using antihistamines or you suffer from chronic hives, then your doctor may recommend oral corticosteroids.
- Corticosteroid tablets
For more serious or severe cases of hives, you may be prescribed a corticosteroid such as prednisone. While this is another medication that works well at keeping hives at bay, there are side effects associated with the use of this drug. Those side effects include mood changes, insomnia, increased appetite and weight gain. The instance of side effects increases the longer you take it, so long-term use of corticosteroids is not recommended.
Other medications and treatments that may be prescribed or used include:
- Cortisones (same side effects as corticosteroids, so only good for short-term use)
- Singulair (montelukast)
- Epinephrine (adrenaline)
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Antifungal antibiotics
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as (amitriptyline [Elavil, Endep],nortriptyline [Pamelor, Aventyl], doxepin [Sinequan, Adapin])
Talk to your dermatologist about the side effects associated with these treatments and to determine which ones are best for your circumstances.
Another medication that has proven effective against urticaria is called ciclosporin. It’s available in pill and liquid form and works by suppressing the immune system in a manner similar to corticosteroids. Like corticosteroids, this medication can cause side effects such as:
- Hypertension, which may increase your risk of heart diseaseand stroke
- Kidney problems
- High blood cholesterol
- Increased vulnerability to infections such as UTIs and chest infections because of reduced immune function
Because of these adverse effects, your doctor may only prescribe a short course of this medication.
This is a new medication given by injection that is typically prescribed to treat hives that doesn’t respond to antihistamines. It’s believed to work by reducing a certain type of antibody associated with causing hives.
- Topical creams
There are numerous creams and lotions available that may help alleviate hives and associated symptoms. The large majority of them, however, do not work. Additionally, there are a number of substances such as camphor, diphenhydramine, pramoxine and menthol that cost less and are somewhat effective.
Many of these topical treatments don’t require a prescription unless they contain steroids. In that case, you’ll need to talk to your doctor about the specific medication you’re interested in using.
Know what Causes Hives: Avoid Triggers
Hives and angioedema are caused by the release of histamines, a chemical produced by specialized cells, into the blood stream. This leads to blood plasma leaking out of the small blood vessels in the skin, which induces swelling and other unpleasant reactions.
Histamine is the body’s way of protecting itself from triggers. Anything can cause a person to break out in hives including allergens (e.g. dander, peanuts), bug bites, exposure to sunlight and other environmental elements. Certain medications like high blood pressure drugs, ibuprofen and painkillers such as codeine.
You may also get hives from:
- Physical and emotional stress
- More than tolerable cold or sun exposure
- Insect bites, bee stings or drug allergy
- Extreme perspiration
- Autoimmune diseases, leukemia, lupus, mononucleosis
Many times, the exact cause of hives cannot be determined and uncovering the source of the condition can be challenging, particularly if you have had hives for over six weeks.
To avoid developing hives:
- Avoid contact with allergens.
- Avoid taking hot baths or showers immediately after an episode of hives. This may aggravate your condition.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes that provides plenty of ventilation.
Emergency Treatment for Hives
Generally hives is a harmless, if unsightly, condition. Sometimes, though, hives accompany a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening condition that causes swelling in the throat, cutting off your ability to breathe. If you are severely or fatally allergic to certain foods, insect bites or medications, it’s critical that you speak to your health care provider about being prescribed an emergency kit that includes epinephrine shots, which can immediately treat the problem and save your life.
When to Visit the doctor
If you experience a significant decrease in blood pressure and shortness of breath when you get urticaria or angioedema, then you should see a doctor as soon as possible, especially if you don’t have any epinephrine shots. Left untreated, this severe allergic reaction can become fatal.
Get in touch with your local emergency number if you experience:
- Difficulty breathing
- throat swelling or feel tightness in your throat
- Swelling on face or tongue
- Lack of consciousness or start to faint