The medical term for hives is urticaria. They are welts (wheals) on the skin that are usually quite itchy. They can vary in size from a small as a pencil eraser to as large as a baseball cap. Individual lesions usually appear suddenly and resolve without a trace by 24 hours (“here today and gone tomorrow”), during which time other lesions can form.

There are two categories of hives depending on how long lesions continue to develope, acute (less than 6 weeks) and chronic (more than 6 weeks). Many times a trigger is not able to be elucidated that caused it to start. Make an appointment today with your Advanced Dermatology medical provider and stop living this annoying, itchy rash!

Q: What causes this to occur?

A: Most of the time hives occur when a stimulus causes an inappropriate release of histamine from a kind of immune system cell in your skin called a mast cell. A few common triggers include medications (new and dose changes to current ones), sunlight, foods (citrus fruits, mil, eggs, peanuts, shellfish), insect bites/stings, infections (usually the common cold), stress, exercise and pressure.

Q: Are hives dangerous?

A: Yes and no. While most of the time hives are an isolated finding, there are some associated conditions that your medical provider should evaluate. If you start to develop lip or tongue swelling, you could be developing angioedema which is a medical emergency. It is important to schedule an appointment with your Advanced Dermatology medical provider today.

Q: What kinds of treatments are available?

A: There are several available treatments for hives, the most important being avoiding whatever triggers them (if known). First-line treatment usually includes around-the-clock, non-sedating antihistamines in combination with skin soothing lotions. Many times it takes a combination of more than one anti-histamine to maintain control. When these fail, other treatment options include steroids (topical, oral and injectable), oral medications (singulair, cyclosporine, dapsone, methotrexate), phototherapy and a recently approved injection (omalizumab).