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Health Information For Teens
Hives are red raised bumps or welts on the skin. Hives (or urticaria) is a common skin reaction to something like an
(a substance that causes allergies).
The spots can appear anywhere on the body and can look like tiny little spots, blotches, or large connected bumps.
Individual hives can last anywhere from a few hours to a week (sometimes longer), and new ones might replace those that fade. Hives that stay for 6 weeks or less are called
hives; those that go on longer than 6 weeks are
An allergic reaction can cause hives, as can:
In some cases, a person has hives and angioedema, a condition that causes swelling around the eyes, lips, hands, feet, or throat. Very rarely, hives and angioedema are associated with an allergic reaction that involves the whole body or anaphylactic shock.
The red welts of hives happen when mast cells in the bloodstream release the chemical histamine, which makes tiny blood vessels under the skin leak. The fluid pools within the skin to form spots and large welts. This can happen for a number of reasons. But in many cases the cause is never found.
Most often, hives are associated with an allergic reaction, which can make the skin break out within minutes. Common allergies include:
Sometimes a breakout of hives has nothing to do with allergies. Other causes include:
Hives due to physical causes (such as pressure, cold, or sun exposure) are called physical hives.
It can be hard to figure out what causes chronic hives, though it’s sometimes linked to an immune system illness, like lupus. Other times, medicines, food, insects, or an infection can trigger an outbreak. Often, though, doctors don’t know what causes chronic hives.
The hallmark red raised welts are the main sign of hives. The welts can:
Someone who also has angioedema might have puffiness, blotchy redness, swelling, or large bumps around the eyes, lips, hands, feet, genitals, or throat. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, or belly pain.
Rarely, a person with hives and angioedema can also get anaphylactic shock. Signs of anaphylactic shock include breathing trouble, a drop in blood pressure, dizziness, or a loss of consciousness (passing out).
Most of the time, a doctor can diagnose hives just by looking at the skin. To find the cause, you may be asked questions about your
, recent illnesses, medicines, exposure to allergens, and daily stressors.
If you have chronic hives, the doctor may ask you to keep a daily record of activities, such as what you eat and drink, and where the hives tend to show up on your body. Diagnostic tests — such as blood tests, allergy tests, and tests to rule out conditions that can cause hives, such as thyroid disease or hepatitis — might be done to find the exact cause of the hives.
To check for physical hives, a doctor may put ice on your skin to see how it reacts to cold or place a sandbag or other heavy object on your thighs to see if the pressure will cause hives.
In many cases, mild hives won’t need treatment and will go away on their own. If a definite trigger is found, avoiding it is part of the treatment. If the hives feel itchy, the doctor may recommend an antihistamine medicine to block the release of histamine in the bloodstream and prevent breakouts.
For chronic hives, the doctor may suggest that you take a non-sedating (non-drowsy) prescription or over-the-counter antihistamine every day. Not everyone responds to the same medicines, though, so it’s important to work with the doctor to find the right one for you.
If a non-drowsy antihistamine doesn’t work, the doctor may suggest a stronger antihistamine, another medicine, or a combination of medicines. In rare cases, a doctor may prescribe a steroid pill or liquid to treat chronic hives. Usually this is done for just a short period (5 days to 2 weeks) to prevent harmful steroid side effects.
Anaphylactic shock and bad attacks of hives or angioedema are rare. But when they happen, they need immediate medical care.
People with bad allergies should carry an injectable shot of
. The doctor will teach you how to safely give yourself an injection if you are at risk for a severe allergic reaction.
Visit our Asthma Center for information and advice on managing and living with asthma.
Your eyes itch, your nose is running, you’re sneezing, and you’re covered in hives. The enemy known as allergies has struck again.
The immune system is made up of special cells, proteins, tissues, and organs that defend people against germs and microorganisms.
Our skin protects the network of tissues, muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and everything else inside our bodies. Hair and nails are actually modified types of skin.
Quick action is essential during a serious allergic reaction. It helps to remind yourself of action steps so they become second nature if there’s an emergency. Here’s what to do.
A person with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can seem scary, but the good news is it can be treated.
Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with food allergies. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with food allergies can make a big difference in preventing serious illness.
Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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