Hives appear like red and itchy bumps on your skin and can be in a small patch of skin or scattered throughout your body. The most common cause of hives is an allergic reaction to food or drugs, though there are other cases as well. The allergic reaction causes your body to release chemicals that cause the hives by swelling up and causing redness sometimes with warmth as well. If someone has allergies, they are more likely to get hives than others. Hives are common and not usually a medical emergency, except in some cases they might be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Hives
Aside from the appearance of hives, you may experience a number of different symptoms and signs that show you have hives. Signs include slightly raised swellings on the skin that might also be red or pink, welts on your skin that are alone or in a group over a large area, swelling on the skin that is gone within 24 hours and usually in one spot. Keep in mind you can get hives in one small area or throughout your body. Hives occurring in one single area are called fixed hives where they don’t usually spread. People of any age, gender, race, religion, or health condition can get hives.
Causes of Hives
Most hives are caused by an allergic reaction to food, especially citrus fruits, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, milk or eggs, insect bites, insect stings, certain medications, animals, pollen, touching a material you’re allergic to like latex, or allergy shots. You can also get hives from an infection, illnesses like thyroid disease, lupus, or vasculitis, exposure to sun, cold, water, or heat, exercise, stress, pressure on the skin, scratching the skin, or coming into contact with chemicals. Hives can come as soon as a few minutes after exposure to whatever triggered the allergic reaction. A delayed reaction takes more than 2 hours for hives to occur.
Diagnosing and Treating Hives
A physical examination is typically enough or doctors to diagnose hives. Sometimes the cause can be difficult to determine, especially if the patient has had hives for 6 weeks or longer. Aside from asking you about your symptoms and the physical exam, some tests may be performed such as an allergy test, blood work to rule out infection or illness, and a skin biopsy. Antihistamines are the most common treatment for hives which will relieve the itching and any discomfort associated with them.