Hives, also called urticaria, is a type of skin reaction that produces reddish and very itchy welts. The welts may vary from small to extremely large blotchy areas on the skin.
Acute hives are usually a result of an allergic reaction to an insect bite, food, airborne allergen, or medication. They tend to go away after 24 hours, but in some cases, it may take weeks.
An allergist can take one look at the spots on your skin and make a diagnosis just based on their appearance. However, part of treating skin allergies is finding out the cause. This helps you know what to avoid in the future.
Diagnosis of Hives
Your allergist will first review your medical history and then perform tests to diagnose hives. These tests may include an allergy blood test and a skin-prick test. To identify the cause of hives usually involves a combination of diagnostic testing and detective work. A blood test is used to check for the presence of specific antibodies in your blood; in a skin test, the doctor tests different allergens on your skin and looks for an allergic reaction.
How Is Treatment Determined for Hives?
Treatment of acute or chronic hives includes antihistamine medication to help relieve the itching and to reduce the severity of the reaction. Common antihistamines used to treat hives include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratadine (Claritin), and Fexofenadine (Allegra).
For patients who have severe skin reactions accompanied by shortness of breath and wheezing, doctors may prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g. EpiPen®). This device helps treat these severe allergic reactions, also known as anaphylaxis. Severe anaphylactic shock can be fatal, so it is important for anyone who has a skin allergy to be partnered with a skilled allergist who can give you potentially life-saving treatments.
Patients who have chronic hives may be prescribed allergy shots, such as omalizumab (Xolair), which is administered monthly. Other treatment methods include prescription corticosteroids or prednisone, but these are only intended for short-term use. If corticosteroids are ineffective, the doctor may prescribe immunosuppressants such as cyclosporine (Restasis, Neoral, etc.) to calm the immune system.
Prevention of hives by avoiding the triggers is just as important as treatment. If you or your loved one has a rash or occasionally develops itchy, reddish welts, it is in your best interest to have an allergy screening and to take control of the situation.
Board-Certified Allergists in Will County and DuPage County, IL
At Oak Brook Allergists, you and your loved ones will receive a world-class allergy evaluation and treatment from a leading board-certified allergist here in northeast Illinois and the greater Chicago area. It is our goal to determine what exactly is causing your symptoms, provide treatment that works for you, and help you prevent allergic reactions in the future.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with an allergist, contact our friendly staff today by calling us at (630) 574-0460 or by filling out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to helping you enjoy an allergy-free lifestyle!