Hives And Your Skin
Hives (also known as Urticaria) are itchy red welts that appear on the skin, often because of an allergic reaction or as a result of a viral infection. These welts often appear in patches on the skin, and can appear anywhere on the body. These patches often appear for an extended period of time (from a few minutes to several hours), and then can disappear and reappear on another area of the body. These hives breakouts may run in cycles and the breakouts can continue like this on different areas of the body for several weeks at a time. Any time the cycle lasts more than 6 weeks, they are typically labeled as chronic hives. By understanding the medical condition known as hives, what causes it, and the best prevention methods possible for avoiding it you can work towards keeping this skin condition at bay.
Causes of HivesWhile there are a variety of causes of hives, the number one reason people break out in these unsightly welts is due to some sort of allergic reaction. The main causes of hives as an allergic reaction are foods or medications. People are more likely to experience hives as a result of an allergic reaction if they have other allergies, such as hay fever. Aside from foods and medicine, there are many other allergens that can cause hives in certain people, including pet dander, pollen, and insect bites.
There are also some medical conditions that can result in an outbreak of hives. These can include medical conditions that reduce the immune system or already cause an existing infection within the blood, such as Leukemia, Mono, or HIV. Since these conditions relate to weaker immune systems or current infections, the viral infection that causes hives (usually a form of the HPV virus) is likely to occur.
For some people, there doesn’t even have to be an infection or an allergen to cause an outbreak of hives, and the breakouts can instead be caused by such things as too much exposure to sun or to the cold or extreme stress or nervousness. Sometimes, excessive sweat and tight clothing can cause hives. Many times, however, there is no known cause for the breakout of hives.
Treatment of HivesThe treatment of hives is similar to the way you would treat a cold—you aren’t actually treating the condition, but you are treating the symptoms until the condition gets better naturally. Most hives treatments can be done at home, and include applying anti-itch lotions or creams to the affected area and taking antihistamines, such as Benadryl, to stop the allergic reaction. While treating hives, and until they go away completely, it is also important to avoid hot baths or showers and tight fitting clothing, as both of these can irritate the hives and make the condition worse.
If at home treatment is unsuccessful, you may want to visit a doctor so you can get prescription medication. This can often include steroids, as well as stronger versions of over-the-counter medications. Another situation in which you will need to seek medical attention for hives is if the outbreak is severe or seems to have complications. The most common difficulty or complication with hives is swelling that becomes severe and that occurs in the throat. If this happens, it is important to see a doctor immediately, otherwise breathing can become difficult or impossible (asphyxiation). Signs that this may be happening can include a tightness or swelling in the throat or mouth (including the tongue), difficulty breathing or wheezing, and possibly even fainting.
Prevention of HivesSince hives are typically caused by outside sources, the best method of prevention is to eliminate the source of the breakouts. While you may not always know for sure what caused a case of hives, determining the irritant can be critical in avoiding future breakouts. Once you have determined what allergens or irritants cause your hives, it is easier to avoid them. If you experience hives as a result of a food allergy, you can simply eliminate that food from your diet. If the allergen is airborne, there are antihistamines or other medications you can take that will help eliminate hive breakouts.
If, however, your hives are caused by uncontrollable outside factors, such as stressful situations or nervousness, it can often be difficult to completely avoid these types of situations. In this case, it may be best to try to develop other ways of dealing with stress or nervousness, such as taking a calm walk by yourself, in order to avoid hives.
Most hive outbreaks do not require immediate medical attention. If you are plagued by hives your best course of action is to understand the condition and take steps towards preventing it.