What Are Hives?
Hives or urticaria is a skin reaction that appears as itchy bumps when you are exposed to a trigger that your immune system reacts to. These welts may appear as small spots or large blotches on your skin. They can also be reddish in color and come in different shapes, such as round, oval, or elongated spots. Typically, hives disappear within 24 hours after they appear. However, many people experience chronic hives, which means their hives return repeatedly – sometimes on a weekly or daily basis.
Hives are allergic reactions triggered by an external agent. These triggers cause your body to produce histamine, your defense to allergens. Histamine dilates the blood vessels in your skin, causing fluid to leak, which leads to swelling. Some of the most common triggers are:
- The common culprits for food allergies are shellfish, peanuts, soy, wheat, eggs, and milk. For some people, allergic reactions are life-threatening. For others, they are non-life-threatening reactions, like hives.
- Harsh Soaps. Fragrances and antibacterial soaps can also cause an allergic reaction.
- Constant pressure. For some people, wearing tight or irritating clothes can cause hives.
- Changes in temperature. Sudden changes in temperature and exposure to sunlight can also trigger allergic reactions for some.
- Medical treatments. Blood transfusions, bacterial or viral infections, and HIV can also cause hives in some people.
Treatment For Hives
Often, hives appear suddenly and go away quickly. Here are the best treatment options to either treat hives or reduce the frequency of them developing.
Prevention is better than cure, and the easiest way to prevent hives is to avoid your triggers. Consult with an allergist to figure out what causes your allergic reactions. You may need a skin test to help identify the food, medication, insect sting, pollen, pet, or clothing material that is causing your hives. Avoiding these triggers can also prevent other types of allergic reactions, like sneezing and congestion.
Apply Cold Washcloth
If you develop hives, apply a wet and cold washcloth. Use this to cover the affected area and soothe itchiness. Do not use hot water as this can cause further irritation to the skin.
Take a Cool Bath
Taking a comfortable, cold bath or shower can bring you relief from itching. If you have access to a bathtub, adding baking soda or oatmeal to your bath can also help relieve itchiness.
Wear Loose Clothing
Irritating and tight clothes can also cause hives. Opt to wear loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of cotton rather than wool, to reduce hive breakouts.
No matter how much you avoid your triggers, sometimes, hives are unavoidable. In such situations, medications can help. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs are the most common treatments for hives. These medications include:
Antihistamines are the standard treatment for hives. These relieve and reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Often, antihistamines can make you drowsy, but you can ask your doctor or pharmacist for a non-drowsy variety.
For a severe case of hives, your allergist may prescribe you an oral corticosteroid drug, like prednisone. This will help reduce severe effects of hives, which include swelling, redness, and itchiness.
If antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medications do not help with your hives effectively, your doctor may prescribe immunosuppressants. These will help calm your overactive immune system that is sensitive to triggers.
Hives Treatment In Illinois
If you experience hives and would like an experienced allergist to help you manage the condition, contact Oak Brook Allergists today. We have four offices in Downers Grove, Naperville, Elmhurst, and Plainfield, Illinois, for your convenience. To make an appointment, call (630) 574-0460.