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Hives and Your Skin

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What Causes Hives and Angioedema? continued...

Chronic urticaria and angioedema can affect other internal organs such as the lungs, muscles, and gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include muscle soreness, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Physical urticaria: Hives caused by direct physical stimulation of the skin -- for example, cold, heat, sun exposure, vibration, pressure, sweating, and exercise. The hives usually occur right where the skin was stimulated and rarely appear elsewhere. Most of the hives appear within one hour after exposure.

Dermatographism: This is a common form of physical urticaria where hives form after firmly stroking or scratching the skin. These hives can also occur along with other forms of urticaria.

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 angiodema. 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 your primary care doctor or dermatologist.

Skin tests may be performed to determine the substance to which you are allergic. Routine blood tests are done to determine if a system-wide illness is present.

How Are Hives and Angioedema Treated?

The best treatment for hives and angiodema is to identify and remove the trigger, but this is not an easy task. Antihistamines are usually prescribed by your doctor to provide relief from symptoms. Antihistamines work best if taken on a regular schedule to prevent hives 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 may be prescribed. A biologic drug, omalizumab (Xolair), is also approved to treat chronic hives in those at least 12 years of age.

For severe hive or angioedema outbreaks, an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) or a cortisone medication may be needed.

How Can Hives Be Managed?

While you're waiting for hives and swelling to disappear, here are some tips:

  • Apply cool compresses or wet cloths to the affected areas.
  • Try to work and sleep in a cool room.
  • Wear loose-fitting lightweight clothes.

 

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