What Causes Hives?

Hives Types, Causes and Remedies

What are hives

Hives, also called urticaria in the medical world, are a unique skin irritation frequently attributed to allergies. They can manifest suddenly on any part of the body, including on the mouth and ears, and are commonly accompanied by an itching or burning sensation. Hives are unique in their ability to spread rapidly and disappear just as quickly as they appear, often only to pop back up and start again. This pattern can repeat itself at various intervals over the course of hours, days or weeks, but each separate occurrence typically lasts no more than 24 hours.

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Hives fall into two broad categories:

What do hives look like

Hives are characterized by inflamed red bumps on the skin that resemble a rash. They come in random shapes and sizes that can change rapidly. They can be tiny and round or large with no discernible shape at all. They can cover a small or large area of the body, disappear from one area and reappear in another, or spread all over. The bumps sometimes join to form larger raised areas called plaques.

What causes hives

Ordinary hives are often the result of an adverse or allergic reaction to one of the following:

The cause of chronic hives can be difficult to determine, but known causes include:

Many times the cause of either type of hives is unknown. What is known is that, during an attack, skin cells release a chemical called histamine, which causes blood plasma to seep out of small blood vessels. In severe cases, this can cause a significant drop in blood pressure and lead to anaphylaxis, which can be fatal if not treated quickly. For this reason, whenever hives persist for more than a few hours, it's a good idea to see a doctor.

What are the remedies for hives

Treatment for hives is focused on relieving symptoms until the problem resolves on its own. The most popular remedy is antihistamine, which fights the histamine release that triggers hives in the first place. Many antihistamines, like Benadryl, are available without prescription.

A doctor may prescribe oral steroids or antibiotics in more severe cases when antihistamines are not effective. In mild cases, an anti-itch cream can relieve discomfort until the hives disappear.

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