Hives, the itchy red rash, is known as Urticaria. One-fifth of the people are affected by it. When the disorder is accompanied by inflammation of the hands, feet, and face, the condition is termed Angioedema.
Hives resemble mosquito bites in appearance. A rash is a group of these bumps that come and go in different regions of the body. Angioedema is not characterized by the ruddiness that is seen in Hives. It gives you a numb or stinging sensation. When the swelling is severe and is accompanied by breathing problems then there is cause for great concern and medical aid should be reached to the person immediately.
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When some chemicals, including histamine, are released from the skin (the mast cells in the skin release these chemicals) and the mucous membrane then Hives occur. The chemicals may be released due to some allergic reaction. The most common causes for Hives are (1) exposure to dust mites, pollen, or mold and (2) allergy caused by food or medication.
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Only about 5 to 10% of Hives that is chronic is due to allergy. Most of the chronic Hives problems are caused by auto-immune issues. When antibodies are created to defend against a certain constituent of mast cells, histamine, an organic nitrogen compound, is released. This component triggers Hives.
Hives in children
In children the most common causes for Hives are
- Viral infections that lead to sore throat or common cold
- Contact with animal dander
- An insect sting or insect bite
- Allergy caused due to food – Hives caused by a food allergy can occur within minutes of consuming the food
- Allergy caused due to medication – Hives becomes apparent within a few hours, in the form of a rash or it may take a fortnight to appear
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Hives induced by other illness
Hives can also be triggered by the onset of certain medical problems like
- Health issues due to hereditary reasons
- Viral hepatitis
- Urinary tract infection
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Other auto-immune diseases
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Hives are also caused by exposure to certain factors of the environment like too much cold, too much sunlight, too much heat, or too much pressure (like the one created by the tight waistband of your attire). The symptoms of Hives are aggravated especially due to heat generated by factors like too much exercise or very hot water for baths.
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Treating Hives depends largely on the reasons that have triggered the problem. Medication varies according to the allergen leading to the problem.
The main component of treatment is prescribing anti-histamines. The medication is given orally. Sometimes a brief course of corticosteroids is prescribed. When the symptoms of Hives are life-threatening, (itching accompanied by severe swelling and breathing difficulty) epinephrine shots.
Epinephrine is a substance that can enable the narrowing of blood vessels so that airways in the lungs are opened. The chemical can also help reduce symptoms of wheezing, severe itching, low blood pressure, and other problems like insect bites and food and medication allergies
Alternative treatment includes (a) consuming foods that have a cooling effect on the body like watermelon or cilantro and (b) aromatherapy to reduce the itching.