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Symptoms & Causes of Chronic Hives

a woman suffering from hives

What Are Hives?

Hives which are also known by the name urticaria are red, itchy, raised welts that are found on the skin. They usually appear pink, red, or flesh-coloured, and sometimes they also hurt or sting. In most cases, hives are caused due to an allergic reaction to certain food or medication or an allergic reaction to some irritant in the environment.

In many cases, it is found that hives are actually a temporary problem that may get alleviated by taking some allergy medications. Most of the symptoms of rashes go away on their own. However, some severe symptoms of hives need to stabilize.

What Causes Hives?

Hives are caused when your body releases the histamine in large quantities, generally itchy bumps and raised patches.

When your immune system recognizes some threat to your body it releases histamine and other chemicals that were stored inside the cells by the body. So this function performed by your immune system protects you from any infection.

Sometimes, when people develop an allergic reaction to something then also their immune system releases histamine when actually there is no real threat. In fact, sometimes when people have some allergic reaction they tend to develop hives.

In such cases when your immune system mistakenly releases histamine and in parallel hives develop, the cause can be one of the following...

  • Stress

  • An allergic reaction to something 

  • Overreaction to sweat, heat, or cold

  • Sunlight

  • Even some pressure on the skin like scratching, tight clothing, etc.

When hives are caused due to some allergic reaction, it is mostly an allergy to:

  • Latex

  • A food

  • Bug bite or sting

  • Plant

  • Medication

  • Pet dander

  • Pollen

Sometimes it is seen that medical treatment or infection can trigger hives.

As it is noticed that some people use to get hives when they got infected with UTI, strep throat, or even COVID-19. Also when a medical treatment like a blood transfusion or radiation therapy. 

What Triggers Hives?

There are only two types of hives

 

  • Acute Hives Or Urticaria 

    These types of hives are those which last for less than 6 weeks. Some common causes of acute hives can be as follows.
  •  

    • Foods

    • Medications

    • Infections.

    • Certain diseases and

    • Insect bites may also be responsible for causing this

    Hives are caused more often by fresh foods than cooked foods. The most common foods that can cause hives are fish, nuts, tomatoes, chocolate, fresh berries, milk, and eggs.

    Drugs that can be blamed for causing hives to include some anti-inflammatory medications such as high BP drugs, ibuprofen, and also by aspirin, and by some painkillers like codeine.

     

  • Chronic Hives Or Urticaria
  •  

    These are the kind of hives that last for more than 6 weeks. The causes of chronic hives are harder to find than those causing acute urticaria. For most people, it is impossible to find the cause of chronic urticaria. But some studies found that in some cases, the cause of chronic urticaria can be

    • Thyroid disease

    • Infection

    • Cancer

    • Hepatitis

    Studies also reveal that chronic urticaria can also affect organs like

    • Muscles

    • Lungs and

    • Gastrointestinal tract.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Muscle soreness

    • Shortness of breath

    • Vomiting and

    • Diarrhoea

    Women are more prone to hives as compared to men during their lifetime. Most women suffer from CSU when they are between 20 to 40 years of age.

    While everyone can develop hives while you have a greater risk of getting infected if you:

    • Have eczema

    • Are African American women.

    • You smoke cigarettes

    If your hives symptoms are sustained for long or are supposedly widespread hives, so must visit a professional dermatologist that can ease your symptoms. Such a visit to a professional dermatologist can also confirm that your symptoms are pointing toward the hives.

    Symptoms

    Most common symptoms of chronic hives include:

    • Welts that vary in appearance, size, change shape, and get faded away repeatedly can occur anywhere on the body.

    • Severe Itching

    • Symptoms trigger due to stress, heat, and exercise

    • Severe pain in the swelling of lips or even inside the throat.

    • Most of the signs and symptoms persist for more than six weeks.

    While acute hives suddenly appear and fade away within a few weeks.

    How Hives Can Be Treated?

    The best treatment for any disease is to go searching for what triggers the symptoms that are also true for hives too. We should look for the triggers and avoid them completely. Many doctors prescribed antihistamines to provide you relief from the symptoms. But these antihistamines usually work best when taken on a regular basis to prevent hives from even occurring in the first place.

    So chronic hives may be treated with a combination of antihistamines and other prescribed medication. Oral steroids are the next step in prescription when antihistamines don't work. 

    For more severe hives, a doctor might prescribe you cortisone medication or an injection of epinephrine.

    Take Away

    Although hives are known to cause very uncomfortable and itchy skin, they are still for the short term and may disappear on their own with time without taking any medicines. But you should also look for new hives as they also pop up with time as the old fades away.

    Hives can only be dangerous only if you are suffering from a severe allergic reaction and your throat starts swelling. In that case, you should immediately look for the doctor's advice.