Urticaria (Hives): Symptoms
This is a skin reaction that causes bumps, raised patches, or both to suddenly appear on the skin. The bumps and raised patches are often itchy and may look swollen. Hives appear suddenly, causing a rash of smooth, raised welts that tend to differ in size and shape. The welts can be small, large, or somewhere in between. Some hives are as big as a hand. The medical name for hives is urticaria.
Hives can itch, sometimes intensely. Some people say that hives burn or sting rather than itch. Because the skin is inflamed, hives often feel warm to the touch.
Along with hives, some people develop swelling deep in their skin or the moist tissue that lines the mouth/lip, eyelids, or other areas. This swelling is called angioedema. Angioedema is usually harmless; however, it can become a life-threatening emergency.
**If swelling develops in your mouth or throat or you have or difficulty breathing, get immediate medical care or go to the nearest emergency room.
Hives can develop anywhere on your skin. For most people, hives appear on one or more of these areas:
• Abdomen, Back, Buttocks, Chest, Upper arms, and/or Upper legs
If you have hives, they may appear in one area like your back or cover much of your skin. Hives can also develop on soft, moist tissue that lines your eyelids, mouth, and other areas.
How do dermatologists diagnose hives?
A dermatologist can often diagnose hives by looking at your skin. To find out why you have hives, your dermatologist will ask questions. Knowing why you have hives may help you avoid the cause, which can prevent new hives. Hives have many causes, so it can be a challenge to find the cause.
What causes hives can range from your diet, or types of medications you are taking to an insect bite or even environmental factors.
For example, can you answer the following questions?
• What did you eat?
• Did you take a medication, including one that you can buy without a prescription, such as ibuprofen?
• Have you been feeling stressed?
• Did a bug bite or sting you?
• Were you out in sunlight, cold, or heat?
• Did you sweat a lot?
• Were you wearing tight clothes or carrying a purse or backpack?
During your appointment, your dermatologist will also ask about your medical history. Be sure to mention any recent medical treatments, including radiation therapy or a blood transfusion.
If you have a mild case of hives, it will likely go away in a few days. To get relief until then, dermatologists recommend that you take a non-drowsy antihistamine.
Your dermatologist may also require one or more of the following medical tests:
Allergy tests (on the skin or blood tests), Blood work (to rule out an illness or infection) or Skin biopsy.
When treating hives, the goals are to:
Control the itch, prevent new hives (existing hives go away on their own), and avoid what’s causing the hives (when known)
Your treatment plan will be tailored to your needs.