Written by Dr. Yogen Dave
If you’re suffering from those itchy red bumps that come and go, you may have a case of the hives, or in medical terms, “urticaria.” Individual bumps can last up to 24 hours but usually are of a much shorter duration. New hives can develop as the older ones resolve.
Hives are very common, with about 20 percent of the population getting them sometime in their lifetime. They are classified as either acute, i.e. lasting less than six weeks, or chronic, lasting more than six weeks. Over 90% of hives cases are acute. Though the most common trigger of hives in children is viral infections, acute hives can have many causes including food allergies, contact allergy (cats/dogs), medication (pain medicines, antibiotics, etc.), or bee stings. They’re not always easy to determine, but when triggers are found, they should be avoided. Heat, cold, pressure, exercise, sunlight, or other environmental stimuli may worsen hives. Certain pain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, others), codeine and naproxen sodium (Aleve, others), also can worsen chronic hives.
Chronic hives is a controllable condition but needs the expert evaluation of an Allergy specialist, as the long-term outlook for hives lasting more than six weeks is very much different from acute hives. The causes of Chronic hives are also very different, with allergic triggers being less likely (only for 5-7 percent of people). Some people with Chronic hives have an auto-immune condition where their own immune system is triggering the allergy cells. Triggers can also include chronic infections, hormonal changes, types of arthritis, as well as other factors. About 40 percent of people with chronic hives also have angioedema. Angioedema involves swelling of the skin that may occur around the eyes and lips, hands, feet, genitalia, and occasionally inside the throat.
Treatment of hives often requires different classes of medicines or combinations, including antihistamines such as Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine), Claritin (loratidine), etc. Benadryl is helpful for an immediate reaction but is too short-acting to be helpful if the hives are ongoing.
See your doctor if you have:
• Hives which burn and leave a black & blue spot when they resolve. This may be an emergency condition and should be seen by a physician immediately.
• Severe hives that don’t respond to treatment.
Seek emergency care if you:
• Feel lightheaded
• Have difficulty breathing
• Feel your throat is swelling
ADVANCED SPECIALTY CARE
The Allergy & Asthma specialists at Advanced Specialty Care, Drs. Jonathan Bell, Yogen Dave, Neetu Godhwani, Purvi Shah, and APRN Michelle DiMauro, specialize in all of your family’s Allergy concerns–offering the region’s largest and longest-running Immunotherapy program. To schedule your appointment with an Allergy & Asthma Specialist at Advanced Specialty Care, with offices in Danbury, New Milford, Ridgefield & Norwalk, CT, call us at (203) 830-4700 or request your appointment today.