Urticaria, commonly referred to as hives, is a dermatological condition characterized by itchy welts that can measure up to several inches in diameter. A person may experience an outbreak of hives during an allergic reaction to medications, foods, or other substances; however, the condition can also occur without any apparent cause.
Symptoms of Hives
The most common symptom of hives is welts that can cause intense itching. The welts are normally red or flesh-colored and may be oval or shaped similar to a worm. The individual welts can range in size from a few millimeters to several inches in size. Although most cases of hives resolve within 24 hours, some patients develop chronic hives that can last for months or even years.
Causes of Hives
Hives are often an allergic reaction to foods, medications, or common allergens. The most common culprits include nuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, pollen, pet dander, latex, insect stings, penicillin, over-the-counter pain relievers, and certain blood pressure medications. Emotional stress, environmental factors, and underlying medical conditions may also trigger hives.
Hives are quite common. Individuals at greatest risk are those who have had previous episodes of hives, have a history of allergic reactions, or have a family history of the conditions. Certain disorders, such as lymphoma, lupus, or thyroid disease can also predispose a person to hives or a related condition, angioedema.
When to See a Doctor
Anyone experiencing hives should see a doctor if the condition lasts for more than a few days. Anyone having difficulty breathing caused by swelling of the tongue or throat should seek immediate medical care with a dermatology provider. Treatment includes medications like anti-itch drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs and more.