Allergies and Hives (Urticaria and Angioedema)
How Are Hives and Angioedema Diagnosed?
Your doctor will need to ask many questions in an attempt to find the possible cause of hives or angioedema. Since there are no specific tests for hives -- or the associated swelling of angioedema -- testing will depend on your medical history and a thorough exam by a primary care doctor, allergist, immunologist, or dermatologist.
Skin tests may be performed to determine the substance that you are allergic to. Routine blood tests are done to determine if a systemic illness is present.
What Is the Treatment for Hives and Angioedema?
The best treatment for hives and angioedema is to identify and remove the trigger, but this is not an easy task. Antihistamines are usually prescribed by your doctor or dermatologist to provide relief from symptoms. These drugs may also be taken on a regular schedule to help prevent hives and associated swelling from forming in the first place.
Chronic hives may be treated with antihistamines or a combination of medications. When antihistamines don't provide relief, oral corticosteroids or a biologic drug, such as omalizumab (Xolair), may be prescribed.
For severe hive or angioedema outbreaks, an injection of epinephrine or a steroid medication may be needed.
How Can Hives Be Managed?
While you're waiting for the hives and swelling to disappear, here are some tips:
- Avoid hot water; use lukewarm water instead.
- Use gentle, mild soap.
- Apply cool compresses or wet cloths to the affected areas.
- Try to work and sleep in a cool room.
- Wear loose-fitting lightweight clothes.
When Should I Call the Doctor About Hives or Angioedema?
If hives or angioedema occur with any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor right away:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in the chest
- Swelling of the tongue, lips, or face