Hives (Urticaria) | Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Hives (Urticaria) | Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

It is estimated that 20% of people will develop hives at least once in their lives. Hives are usually a symptom of an allergic reaction or irritation of the skin. Hives can appear on the arms, face, body, and especially legs. 

They typically develop rapidly and red but can also be white, pale, or clear. The duration for a hive attack can differ, but most will last less than 24 to 48 hours. 

In this article, we’ll describe the different types of hives so that people can understand how they differ based on their cause and treatment.

What are Hives? 

A hive is a collection of skin spots filled with serum, histamines, and nerve endings. Their appearance is reddish, shiny, and bumpy. In some cases, the hives can vary in color and are lighter or darker than usual. A hive can vary in size from small to very large. The term urticaria refers to defining a hive on the body surface.

What are the Types of Hives?

Acute

An acute hive or swelling lasts for less than six weeks, and they come on without warning. The symptoms of acute hives and swelling can occur when an individual is allergic to certain foods or medications.

Chronic

In chronic hives, the swelling lasts more than six weeks. There is no known cause for almost all cases of chronic diseases, though they appear to be autoimmune in origin.

Physical

Occasionally, people develop hives and swelling for a variety of reasons. When exposed to heat, cold, or the sun, you may develop hives. People may experience hives in response to vibrations, pressure, or exercise. It usually occurs within an hour of being exposed.

What Causes Hives on the Body? 

An allergic reaction to foods, medicines, or insect bites or stings may cause clusters of hives. Infections and stress can also cause hives. 

As a result of the irritation, your body releases histamine, a chemical that causes hives to form. Hesitant reactions include swelling, itchiness, and redness. Here are the most commonly occurring causes of hives:

  • An allergy to milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, or shellfish
  • Allergic reaction to contact allergens like latex or animal dander
  • insect bites or stings
  • antibiotics, such as penicillin
  • Medicines such as aspirin that are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • thiazide diuretics
  • Codeine, morphine, and other opiates
  • Besides viral infections and parasite infections, acute hives can also occur under stress or during times of infection

The same factor may cause chronic hives as acute hives. The causes of chronic hives are usually not allergens but rather physical conditions.

Symptoms of Hives on the Body

Some people do not notice that they have hives on their bodies, while others experience them for many days, and they are apparent. Here are the common symptoms of hives on the body. 

  • Red, raised welts or bumps on the skin
  • Blanching (the center of the hive turns white when pressed)
  • Itchy skin
  • Swelling

Hives on the body lasts for different periods. A mild case may go away within a few hours, whereas more severe cases might take days to subside.

When to See a Doctor 

Hives usually last five to 12 hours. They tend to fade and itch more as they approach the skin’s surface. 

Hives are not dangerous, but you should consult a doctor if you develop hives with difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, abdominal pain. Also, women experiencing unusual vaginal bleeding and suspect a more serious underlying health condition should visit a doctor.

Treatment for hives

You will need to discuss the appropriate treatment with your healthcare provider, depending on the severity of your hives. One or more of the following may be suggested by the doctor to relieve itching and reduce swelling:

  • Cool compresses or a lukewarm bath can help.
  • Keep your skin cool and avoid rubbing, which releases histamines.
  • Reduce your allergic reaction by taking antihistamines as directed by your provider or on the label.

There are a wide variety of antihistamines available for treating hives. While some may cause drowsiness, others do not. 

Most patients are treated with antihistamines one at a time. Steroid medications, antileukotrienes, and cyclosporine may be needed to control hives.

Summary

Hives can last anywhere from minutes to days. It all depends on the type of hives you have and the severity of your case. With proper treatment, most hives dissipate to non-existence within a matter of hours. Some may require topical or oral steroids to get rid of the hive sooner and completely.