Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Hives, also known as urticaria, is an allergic skin condition characterised by a raised and itchy reddish rash with tiny amounts of fluid inside the spots just beneath the skin’s surface. These fluid-filled spots are the result of leaking blood vessels under the skin. Hives rashes may appear on a localised part of the body, or it can spread throughout a large area. The rashes are only a few millimetres in size.

 

Hives are divided into two categories:

 

  • Acute urticaria– A condition where the rashes completely subside within six weeks or less.

 

  • Chronic urticaria– A rash that continues for more than six weeks. It can even last as long as multiple years.

 

One in five people gets acute urticaria, while one in 100 people can get chronic urticaria.

Causes and Symptoms

Acute urticaria may be triggered by a variety of factors such as infections, allergens, medications, and physical factors. It occurs when high levels of biochemical messengers and histamine are released into the skin, causing the tiny blood vessels in the area to open up and leak through the skin. The leaked fluids accumulate inside tiny spots and causes swelling, itching, and redness on the affected area.

 

Chronic urticaria is caused by an autoimmune disorder. The immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, thinking they are harmful foreign invaders.

 

Some triggers that may cause both acute and chronic urticaria include:

 

  • High levels of emotional stress
  • Consuming too much caffeine and/or alcohol
  • Rising body temperature

 

Patches and spots of red or white raised skin begin to appear initially. It then clears up and is followed by fresh patches. The spots are typically itchy, painful, or feel warm with a burning sensation. Swelling of the hands and feet accompany the rashes.

How Long Do Hives Last?

Symptoms remain on the skin for around 8-12 hours, rarely continuing to be present for 24 hours. Rare and severe cases may have symptoms not going away for a few days up to several months.

 

Exposure to triggers such as exercise, stress, and heat can often cause a flare-up of hives. The symptoms may occur suddenly and unpredictably, lasting for months or years in severe cases.

 

These three symptoms necessitate emergency care. Immediately rush to your nearest hospital’s A&E if you experience:

 

  • Tongue and throat swelling
  • Severe chest tightness or difficulty in breathing
  • A dizzy feeling

 

Treating Hives

Acute urticaria

 

Mild cases of acute urticaria often do not require treatment. The rashes subside on their own. If acute urticaria persists or the symptoms worsen a bit, your doctor will prescribe antihistamines and/or corticosteroids to help clear up the rashes fast.

 

Chronic urticaria

 

Long-term hives may be treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, and menthol cream to help lessen the itching. Other treatment options include:

 

  • Avoidance of triggering factors that causes a flare-up of hives
  • Relaxation techniques to take off stress, such as meditation and hypnosis
  • Diet modifications, consuming more fish, chocolate, tomato, yoghurt, meat, and strawberry. This may vary depending on the person experiencing the hives symptoms.

 

Speak to one of our GPs today if you suspect you have hives or if you’ve been experiencing repeated attacks lately. They can diagnose your condition over an online video consultation, and give you treatment prescriptions and advice to successfully manage your hives.