Have you ever eaten something and noticed red welts on your skin afterward? Or perhaps you’ve taken a medication and gotten an itchy pink rash? Breaking out in hives can be an incredibly stressful experience, especially when you’re unsure what caused them. Let’s talk through how to get rid of hives and prevent them in the first place.
An outbreak of hives, known medically as urticaria, can be caused by just about anything. Hives symptoms include swollen, raised bumps that show up as red or pink. These bumps, known as plaques or wheals, are typically very itchy. Sometimes people don’t know they’ve developed the rash until they’ve been itching for minutes or even hours and finally look in a mirror or under their clothing to see that they’re breaking out in hives.
Hives symptoms might also include a burning or stinging sensation on and around the rash. The plaques might swell and expand outward, covering large areas of the body, or stay contained to a smaller spot. This common skin condition can appear anywhere on the skin, but often shows up on the face, neck and throat, back and torso, or lips and tongue.
The tough thing about hives is that a trigger is not always identifiable. When the body senses incoming stimuli that it perceives as threatening, cells near the blood vessels of the skin release histamine. When the histamine is released, the skin’s blood vessels leak blood plasma, which results in the hives rash.
This process can happen when you’re stung or bitten by an insect (even if you don’t feel it), by taking a medication you don’t realize that you’re allergic to, by eating a food or ingredient your body perceives as an allergen, or any number of other reasons. People report breaking out in hives from sun exposure, from contact with perfume or certain fabrics, or from cleaning chemicals.
Taking an antihistamine is the first step in treating hives, since this will help temper the immune response. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl work well, but if you’re getting chronic hives, your doctor might prescribe oral corticosteroids. In severe cases, epinephrine may need to be administered.
Hives usually go away on their own, but applying a cool compress and wearing loose-fitting clothes can help alleviate irritation and eventually get rid of hives. It’s important that you try to identify and avoid the trigger, especially if you’re frequently breaking out in hives. This can be tricky, and sometimes it’s the combination of things (like a food and a medication) that causes hives. Keeping a journal of your food, medicine, and activity can help you pinpoint a trigger.
If you experience a hives rash with wheezing, tightness in the chest, dizziness, or swelling of the tongue, lips, or throat, call a doctor immediately as these could be signs of anaphylaxis.
Breaking out in hives frequently? Having a serious reaction that’s lasted for days or weeks? The doctors at Vanguard Dermatology helps patients in the greater New York City area who are suffering from allergic reactions. We can help you get to the root cause of your hives and treat them effectively. Call today for an appointment!