Comments Off on Hives! Written on March 1st, 2011 by
Categories: Allergy Advice, Allergy Articles, Hives

Hives are a very common condition that our clinic sees on a daily basis; up to 20 percent of the population will have hives at one time or another in their lifetime.  Hives have been around a long time, documented as far back as early Egypt on papyrus.  Hives, (sometimes called welts) are known by their Latin name “urticaria”.  Hives appear as itchy red raised bumps which resemble mosquito bites, but hives may also have clear centers and look like irregular rings.   The itching from hives can cause so much discomfort individuals may not be able to sleep at night or have difficulty in concentrating.  In addition to itching, hives may also feel warm or burn.  In certain situations, hives will come and go as they please with little rhyme or reason.  Hives may also form in the deep tissues and cause a dramatic swelling of the body called “angioedema”.  Typical locations of angioedema include the lips, eyes, tongue, fingers, toes and even genital areas.


Hives and angioedema can arise spontaneously, and may occur with obvious triggers.  Obvious triggers include touching an allergen (something we are allergic to) causing hives.  Contact with grass, cat or dog dander/saliva and even certain foods are examples of such a “contact urticaria” reaction.  Medications may cause hives if an individual is, or becomes allergic to the medication (for example penicillin, aspirin and ibuprofen).  Virus infections, valley fever and a several other infections may also cause hives.  Physical stimuli such as cold temperatures, pressure, scratching, sunlight, stress and very rarely water can also bring forth hives in susceptible individuals.


Hives are a component of other allergic reactions.  People who have contact sensitivity to different chemicals, lotions, fragrances or detergents will break out in a rash that may also trigger hives.  If an individual with severe allergies to a food will have an immediate and dramatic reaction, this reaction may include hives among other symptoms.


There are two categories of hives, chronic and acute.  Chronic hives last at least six weeks and acute will resolve in less than six weeks.  Chronic hives may last for years, possibly decades causing people to be frustrated and interfere with quality of life.  Research now reveals this chronic condition is due to an autoimmune process known as “chronic autoimmune urticaria.”  This diagnosis is made through a blood test that is available today.


An experienced allergist will obtain a thorough history and physical and order the necessary labs.  Treatment(s) for chronic hives may include anti-histamines, steroids, and avoidance measures.  Preliminary studies have shown a common asthma treatment may resolve hives and minimize side effects of other treatments.  Our practice, associated with Medical Research of Arizona, is currently studying this promising new treatment for hives.  If you are having trouble with hives, consult one of our board certified allergist and sleep well at night.