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What is Urticaria?

Urticaria is the scientific term for the condition otherwise known as hives. It is a skin condition that takes the form of raised bumps that are red, itchy, and swollen. Most times, urticaria is caused by an allergic reaction that subsides when the allergen is removed. Some people suffer from a chronic form of the condition, which is caused by viral or bacterial infections.

You may also observe and try to identify what you came in contact with before urticaria or hives developed. If you cannot pinpoint the allergen yourself, then you may have an allergy test done by a health care professional. In certain people, stress, heat, and other causes like viral or bacteria infection can cause urticaria or hives.

Causes of Urticaria or Hives

Urticaria that is caused by injection or ingestion of an allergen can cause the most severe symptoms and lead to anaphylactic shock. Drugs such as aspirin, amaryl, penicillin, sulfonamides and anticonvulsants can cause this condition. Food allergies such as the most common shellfish and nut allergies can cause a reaction as well. Insects bite allergy are another culprit. For relief in the event that symptoms present themselves, antihistamines and corticosteroids are the drugs of choice for the treatment of urticaria.

Urticaria or Hives are usually caused by an allergic reaction with the following:

  • Foods like nuts, eggs, and seafood
  • Medications
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Latex
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Plants like poison ivy
  • Food dyes
  • Stress
  • Physical contact like pressure and vibration
  • Chronic bacterial or viral Infections
  • The condition can also arise as a result of stress, sharp changes in temperature, physical irritation, as well as chronic viral and bacterial infections. For most people, an allergy test will determine the cause.

    Symptoms of Urticaria or Hives

  • Raised bumps
  • Redness
  • Itch
  • Swelling
  • The rash may be localized or spread throughout the body depending on how and why it developed. An allergic reaction from contact would be localized to the area of contact. One spread throughout the body may be due to ingestion or intravenous contact with an allergen. Anaphylactic shock is a serious complication that may accompany the later example.

    Diagnosis of Urticaria or Hives

    The above symptoms may point to an urticaria diagnosis. A blood or allergy test may be conducted by your health care professional to pinpoint the origin.

    Treatment of Urticaria or Hives

    Removing yourself from the allergen is the best bet if your urticaria is allergy based. This can range from staying away from food or medication that you notice causes the reaction, or by avoiding exposure to dust, pollen, insect bites, latex, and poison ivy, among others. Washing the affected area with water to flush away the allergen is also a good idea. Anti-histamines can be used to lessen the symptoms. In a particularly severe reaction adrenaline (epinephrine) is administered.

    Many types of anti-histamines are prescribed for the treatment of urticaria, also known as hives. Loratadine is one of the most popular ones. Anti-histamines work by blocking histamine receptors from binding with histamine. Histamine is released when an allergic reaction occurs and acts as a chemical signal for your nasal tissue to swell and leak fluid.

    There are side effects to taking anti-histamines, however. Drowsiness is the most often cited side effect and it can cause your reaction time to drop. When taking anti-histamines you should avoid driving or operating machinery which could put you or somebody else in danger.

    Urticaria Home Treatment

    Making an oatmeal bath can help provide relief for the symptoms of urticaria.

  • Use plain oatmeal without added sugar or other ingredients
  • Gather ¾ of a cup of oatmeal into a coffee filter or muslin piece
  • Create a sort of tea bag and tie it off or use rubber bands at one end
  • Fill your bath with warm water and throw in the oatmeal bag
  • Aloe-Vera applied topically to the affected areas can help soothe the skin and help with healing.

    Urticaria or Hives Prevention

    Cases of urticaria are likely to repeat several times before the cause is identified. Pinpointing the exact cause is essential to prevention. Suspect allergens include foods, medication, insect bites, poison ivy, and pollen. If you experience a rash after physical stimulation of the skin like vibration, pressure, or rubbing, ceasing this stimulation can bring relief.

    Prevention is the best bet for most cases of urticaria. In order to prevent an outbreak of urticaria you need to find out what has caused it. Because most urticaria is caused by allergens, identifying the cause could be as simple as backtracking to what you were recently exposed to.

  • Take note any new foods you have consumed or drugs you have taken
  • Make sure that you were not bitten or stung by an insect
  • Remember if your skin was exposed to any chemicals, dyes, or materials
  • If you cannot pinpoint the cause then it is best to visit a doctor, who may refer you to an allergist in order to conduct an allergy test. Once you have pinpointed the cause of your urticaria, avoiding that agent will be possible. Proper medication can also be prescribed to help the condition.

    Cholinergic Urticaria

    Cholinergic urticaria is the medial term for the skin rash commonly known as hives. It takes the form of swollen, pale, red bumps, patches, or welts on the skin.

    Causes of Cholinergic Urticaria

    Cholinergic urticaria or hives can be caused by either allergic reactions or through physical means such as exposure to heat, sweating, sun, or vibration.

    Symptoms & Treatment of Cholinergic Urticaria

    A rash with intense itching, red skin, and swelling. Acute cases last up to six weeks while chronic cases last longer.

    Much like other allergies the best treatment for cholinergic urticaria is to identify, remove, and prevent the trigger. Avoiding hot water, wearing loose fitting clothing, and sleeping in a cool room can help.

    Antihistamines can help alleviate the symptoms, but if that does not work then oral corticosteroids may be prescribed. If the reaction is severe an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection may be administered.

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