Options for Hives

Arm covered in hivesAn estimated 20% over the population will experience an episode of hives in their lifetime. At Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center in Hillsborough, New Jersey, we treat a number of causes of hives. Visit us today to use our options for your condition.

Ending Your Suffering

Daily outbreaks of hives may significantly worsen your quality of life and make you miserable and irritable. There is no reason to suffer with hives when proper diagnosis may eliminate the condition in the case of a food or drug allergy. Cases of idiopathic hives, where no cause is identified, may still be managed successfully with safe, effective medications such as long-acting antihistamine. Put an end to your needless suffering today by scheduling an appointment to have your allergy care handled by our team.

Urticaria is another term for “hives.” The condition affects an estimated 20 percent of the population at one time or another in their lives. An episode of hives can start as itching, followed by swollen, red welts. The itching may be mild or severe. Scratching, alcohol beverages, exercise, and emotional stress may worsen the itching.

Your Outbreaks of Hives

An episode of hives may last from a few minutes to several hours, up to several days, or even several weeks. However each individual welt should last no more than 24 hours.

Acute episodes of urticaria last for six weeks or less. Acute urticaria is generally due to a reaction to certain foods and additives, medications, insect stings, blood transfusions and infections. Foods such as eggs, nuts, and shellfish are common causes of urticaria. Medications such as aspirin and antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa) also are common causes of hives. Infections that may cause hives include the common cold, strep throat, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis. In most of these cases, when the reason for hives is removed or avoided, the hives resolve.

Chronic episodes of urticaria last more than six weeks. In many cases, the cause of chronic hives cannot be identified despite detailed testing. During this time, the condition is called idiopathic urticaria. In approximately 50 percent of cases of idiopathic urticaria, the immune system is causing the release of chemicals such as histamine. In other cases, chronic urticaria may be associated with thyroid disease or other hormonal problems. Rarely, chronic urticaria has been associated with cancer. In most cases of chronic urticaria, the hives will gradually disappear over time.

Physical Urticaria

Physical urticaria is due to one or more “physical” causes. The most common reason for long-lasting urticaria is dermographism. These hives appear within a few minutes of scratching along an area of skin. Most often, the rash is linear, following the path taken by the act of scratching. Delayed pressure urticaria is swelling that appears on areas of constant pressure from belts and constricting clothing such as sock bands.

Cold urticaria (from exposure to low temperature followed by re-warming) may be severe and life threatening if there is a generalized body cooling, for example after a plunge into a swimming pool. Cholinergic urticaria is due to an increase in body temperature with sweating, exercise, hot showers, and/or anxiety. Sun-induced urticaria may occur within a few minutes after exposure to the sun.

Other Types of Hives

Certain types of chronic hives are more painful than itchy. The hives may go away leaving a bruise on the skin, and individual hives may last more than 24 hours. In such cases, the cause may be inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis).

Your Treatment Options

In most instances, urticaria will improve with medications such as antihistamines. Low-sedating or non-sedating antihistamines are preferred because they are effective with minimal side effects. Frequently, your physician may try a combination of 2 or 3 antihistamines. Severe episodes of urticaria may require temporary treatment with prednisone or a similar corticosteroid medication.

If a causative factor can be identified, the best treatment is to avoid or eliminate that factor. For example, if a problem with a specific food is strongly suspected, then that food should be eliminated from your diet. This will require careful reading of packaged food labels and careful questioning about ingredients in restaurant meals.

Persons with physical urticaria should try to avoid exposure to that physical factor, if possible. Patients with solar urticaria should wear protective clothing and apply a sunblock when outdoors. Loose-fitting clothing will help relieve pressure urticaria. People with cold air urticaria should not swim alone, and those with severe cold urticaria should not swim at all. Cold air exposure should be avoided if possible; warm clothing should be used for unavoidable exposure to cold air. For people with dermographism, avoiding harsh soaps and frequent bathing will reduce the problem of dry skin, which can cause itching and scratching that can aggravate this condition.

Contact us to discuss the causes and treatments for your hives. We offer options for patients throughout Bridgewater, Clinton, and Hillsborough, New Jersey.