What is Urticaria?

Urticaria, or chronic hives, are swollen, pale welts, patches or bumps on the skin that come on suddenly. They usually will itch, but could also sting. They are found anywhere on the body, including the lips, ears, throat, face and tongue. They do not have a specific size, but can form together to form a plaque. They last anywhere from a few hours to several days. They can change size rapidly and will often disappear from one spot and reappear in another. Urticaria is not associated with any long term complications. Typically more females then males get urticaria. About 20% of all people will get urticaria at some point in their lives. Urticaria can appear due to stress, heat, infections, cold, alcohol, food, food additives, pain medications, insect bites, sunlight, exercise, and pressure applied to the skin.

Urticaria Symptoms

Signs of urticaria include welts that are various sizes that appear and then fade repeatedly.  Red or white welts usually will appear on the face, arms, legs or trunk.  Severe itching could be a possibility.  There is a tendency for the symptoms to reoccur for months or years, being very unpredictable and frequent.  The swelling of the hives may cause burning, especially on the genitals, throat, hands, lips, cheek, feet, and around the mouth.

One should seek the help of a doctor if the urticaria is not responding to treatment, there is a severe case of urticaria, or one has hives that continue to appear for several days. If an individual should feel dizzy, feel that the tongue or throat is swelling or have trouble breathing or a tight chest, medical attention will be needed as soon as possible. Do take into consideration that people with urticaria are at a higher risk for developing Lupus, thyroid disease, Celiac disease, Sjogren’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.

Urticaria Treatment

At the doctor’s office, you doctor will exam the skin should you feel you have urticaria. He or she may order blood tests, allergy testing and other tests to rule out any underlying cause. You may be asked to keep a diary of your activities, the foods and drinks you consume, where the urticaria takes place and how long it lasts, and any medications and supplements you are taking.

Many times, normal hives will be treated with home remedies. However, these may not be strong enough to deal with chronic hives. A doctor or dermatologist may need to prescribe something stronger.  Treatments that have been successful when treating hives include:

  • Antihistamine pills- These pills will reduce the release of histamine, which is responsible for producing the symptoms. These may include Fexofenadine, Loratadine, Levocetirizine, and Desloratadine, which are all non-drowsy. Should these pills not work, the doctor may prescribe Hydroxyine, Chlorpheniramine, or Diphenhydramine, which will make one drowsy and should only be taken in the evening.
  • Antidepressants- Antidepressants can be prescribed to relieve itching. The antidepressant doxepin, which is in a cream form, can be applied to the skin to relieve the itch.
  • Histamine blockers- These medications may be injected into the skin or taken orally. Such examples of these include cimetidine and famotidine. These often have side effects that go with them such as a headache.

Should you have urticaria, you will want to avoid wearing tight fitting clothing. Do not use harsh soaps and avoid scratching the skin. Avoid triggers that are known to cause urticaria, such as alcohol, food additives, certain foods, pain relievers and stress. Try relaxation techniques, such as yoga or acupuncture. One may also have success with supplements, such as fish oil, vitamins B-12, C and D.

6 replies
  1. Urticaria sufferers
    Urticaria sufferers says:

    I have suffered many times with urticaria. I get welts that are pretty severe with itching. However, I am lucky and have never had any bad side effects, such as my throat swelling or not being able to breath. But I am always on the look out for that as urticaria can be very scary. I do take a histamine blocker, and have kept a food diary for the past 6 months. It seems to me that when I have a lot of yeast, I tend to break out with the hives. I do avoid alcohol as much as possible for this reason due to the yeast content in it. I have never heard of using those supplements but it is worth it for me to check into it if it means that I will not have to deal with having so many episodes of the chronic hives.

  2. Jay Mo
    Jay Mo says:

    I have had hives before, but they are not chronic. I tend to get them when I drink beer. Probably due to the yeast that is in beer. But mine never itch. I would say mine are ordinary urticaria. Or at least that was what the doctor had diagnosed it as. I just use calamine lotion when I break out with them and also take an antihistamine.

  3. Jenny Ho
    Jenny Ho says:

    Never had I heard of urticaria until my husband started getting it about a year ago. He has had a few bad outbreaks of it. The first time it happened we assumed it was because we were camping and thought he had gotten into some Poison Ivy or Oak. It only lasted a few days. A few weeks later, he got the hives back again. Over the course of a year, he has had hives many times, that we finally went to our family doctor. He diagnosed him with urticaria. He does itch, but the doctor said that he thought my husband had a milder case of it since he has seen cases where the skin itched so bad. My husband has not been to that point and I hope that he never gets there.

  4. Sharron
    Sharron says:

    My brother in law has severe food allergies. He is allergic to shrimp, and can not have anything that has touched shrimp. He also is allergic to many of the preservatives that are in foods. One that comes to mind is the preservatives in bacon bits. He will get a severe case of the urticaria. It will usually only last a few hours, but he has had issues with breathing before. He usually takes some Benadryl, and then calms down and sits quietly relaxing as he has found this method to work well for him. If it does get bad, he goes to the emergency room. He always carries Benadryl with him, as does my sister.

  5. Epis?
    Epis? says:

    Do the people that have urticaria carry an Epi pen? Would these work in the situation that the hives got so bad that the throat began to swell shut? Would injecting yourself with the Epi pen help with the hives in this case?

  6. Anite
    Anite says:

    I have had hives many times over the course of the past year. They are very annoying to me and they do itch. I never knew that there was a thing as chronic hives, or urticaria. I guess I felt that they were never severe enough for me to go to the doctor. I usually just apply calamine lotion. It seems to me that I get them the most when I am hot and sweaty. I do work out a lot, so maybe that is why I am subject to them?


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