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.
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.
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.