What are Hives?

Hives are common skin disorders characterized by edematous plaques with severe itching. Classically, it appears as pallid red, raised, itchy bumps. Each hive remains for a few minutes to several hours before disappearing. For hours or days, clusters of these lesions may come, go, and return episodically. It can be acute when it persists less than six weeks or chronic when the sequence continues longer than six weeks. Acute urticaria accounts for the majority of the cases. Chronic urticaria is idiopathic in nature, rarely caused by an allergic reaction.

In urticaria, whether the activator is allergic or non-allergic, a complex release of inflammatory mediators is involved. One of the chemicals released from the cutaneous mast cells during the process is histamine, which causes escape of fluid from the superficial blood vessels.

Urticaria begins as red circular rashes and soon become pale and edematous which comes with an intense itching and burning sensation. Characteristically, hives rapidly change in size, moving anywhere from one are to another, disappearing and reappearing in matters of hours.

In the environment, numerous substances can cause hives including: medications, food, and physical agents which are aquagenic, stress-related, cholinergic, dermatographic, adrenergic, parasitic or temperamental.

Early identification and avoidance of the allergic triggers are the best ways to prevent another urticaria attack. If exposed to a trigger, have a preventive dose of antihistamine to inhibit hives from developing. Diphenhydramine is considered most effective non-sedating antihistamine. If the urticaria is severe, oral corticosteroids are given for short time only. Starch and colloid-type baths are used as comfort measures. In patients who experience angioedema of the respiratory tract, the doctor may counsel to bring a prescription of epinephrine.



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