Hives are swollen, pale red bumps, patches, or welts on the skin that appear suddenly. They can happen because of allergies or other reasons. Your doctor may call them urticaria.
Hives usually itch, but they may also burn or sting. They can show up anywhere on your body, including the face, lips, tongue, throat, and ears. They range in size from a pencil eraser to a dinner plate and may join together to form larger areas known as plaques. They can last for hours or up to several days.
Wondering if your nagging cold is actually an allergy? Or what about your new skin cream that made your hands break out? Distinguishing an allergy from a non-allergic condition is not always a clear-cut task. But knowing the difference can sometimes help you solve what's ailing you, which in turn could mean faster relief.
Mary Fields knows just how difficult pinpointing an allergy can be. The 64-year-old Bronx resident tells WebMD she was convinced her frequent hives were caused by something in...
Angioedema is different. The swelling happens under the skin, not on the surface. It’s marked by deep swelling around the eyes and lips and sometimes of the genitals, hands, and feet. It generally lasts longer than hives, but the swelling usually goes away in less than 24 hours. It’s rare, but angioedema of the throat, tongue, or lungs can block your airways, making it hard to breathe.
Allergic reactions, chemicals in foods, insect stings, sunlight, and medicines can make your body release a chemical called histamine. Histamine sometimes makes blood plasma leak out of small blood vessels in the skin, causing hives or angioedema.
Sometimes, doctors don’t know exactly why hives have formed.
Acute urticaria and/or angioedema are hives or swelling lasting less than 6 weeks. The most common causes are foods, medicines, latex, and infections. Insect bites or a disease may also be responsible.
The most common foods that cause hives are nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, fresh berries, soy, wheat, and milk. Fresh foods cause hives more often than cooked foods. Certain food additives and preservatives may also be to blame.
Chronic urticaria and/or angioedema are hives or swelling that lasts more than 6 weeks. The cause is usually harder to find than in acute cases. The causes can be similar to those of acute urticaria but can also include your immune system, chronic infections, hormonal disorders, and tumors.
Physical urticaria are hives caused by direct physical stimulation of the skin -- for example, cold, heat, sunlight, vibration, pressure, sweating, and exercise. They usually happen right where the skin was affected and rarely appear anywhere else. Most appear within 1 hour after exposure.
Dermatographism are hives that form after firmly stroking or scratching the skin. You may also have other forms of hives.