Hives can be itchy and bothersome, and in some cases, they can cause serious complications. Bernard Geller, MD, Ph.D., and Sanny Chan, MD, Ph.D. at Allergy and Clinical Immunology Medical Group in Santa Monica, California, offer patients in Santa Monica, California, the most up-to-date and effective treatments available for urticaria to resolve symptoms and prevent recurrence of itchy hives. Call Allergy and Clinical Immunology Medical Group to learn more or schedule an appointment online today.
Also called urticaria, hives are raised bumps that appear on the skin and may appear redder or darker than the surrounding skin. They're often accompanied by itching, stinging or burning, and usually, occur in patches called plaques.
Hives occur as a result of an allergic reaction. In an allergy, the body's immune system overreacts to specific stimuli such as pollen, pet dander or certain foods or medications.
While these substances are not in themselves harmful, the immune system misidentifies them as a threat to the body's health and well-being, sending out chemicals called histamines to defend the body against what it sees as a foreign invader. These histamines can cause tiny leaks in small blood vessels, resulting in the raised welts we call hives.
In order to treat hives effectively, we need to understand what's causing them in the first place. Determining the cause of hives begins with a physical exam as well as a discussion of symptoms, including when they first occurred.
You'll also be asked about other allergies you or your family members may have and about any medications you may be taking. If a cause can be determined, lifestyle changes like using different medication or avoiding the trigger in other ways are important.
Whether or not a cause is identified, you may be prescribed antihistamine medications to get the histamine reaction under control and in more severe cases or when hives are persistent, you may be prescribed steroids.
When an allergic reaction is very severe, an injection of epinephrine may be necessary to prevent serious consequences like difficulty breathing, especially if hives occur inside the mouth and throat. Until hives resolve, using cool compresses and wearing loose clothing can help relieve itching.
Anyone who has multiple episodes of hives/urticaria may want to see an allergist. If the hives are manifesting in the mouth or throat, it’s especially important to seek immediate medical attention to prevent any swelling from blocking the airway.
Even patients who only have mild hives/urticaria on their skin, though, may want to see an allergist who can help lessen the symptoms.