Hives are itchy red welts that affect people of all ages. Hives fall into two categories: urticaria are red welts that appear on top of the skin while angioedema is swelling that begins under the skin. The swelling stretches and reddens the skin above. Both forms of hives have a variety of causes.
Allergies are antigen reactions to otherwise benign substances. This means that the body reacts to some safe substance as if it were an infection or toxin. Allergic reactions take on many forms. Urticaria and Angioderma are two forms of allergic reactions. Generally hives are one part of a wide range of allergic reactions. Some are severe. If you feel any tightening in your throat or have difficulty swallowing or breathing, seek emergency medical help. In some cases, hives form in the throat and compromise breathing.
Wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and shellfish are all common food allergies. Sensitive people suffer hives after eating any of these foods. The hives are raised red dots that can be as small as 1/4-inch across to the size of a dinner plate. Sometimes smaller spots merge to become plaque hives. Hives are intensely itchy. However scratching gives little or no relief. When hive sufferers scratch the raised bumps, they risk damaging the skin. Long or sharp fingernails cut the skin and leave scars as the skin heals.
Reactions to Medicine
Medicines cause hives in some people. Medical hives appear similar to food allergy hives. If any patient develops hives after taking a medication of any kind, notify the doctor immediately. The doctor may stop the offensive medication or prescribe a treatment. Like food allergies, medication-induced hives disappear on their own. Scratching the hives damages the skin and has the potential to create scars.
Some people develop hives after contact with everyday items. Latex, which is found in everything from medical gloves to children's balloons, cause some people to develop the condition. Household chemicals such as cleansers, air fresheners and insecticides cause reactions. Some people even develop hives after exposure to sunlight. Insect bites and plants such as poison ivy and poison oak also cause severe reactions. Even without scratching, the reaction to poison ivy may be so severe that the skin breaks and weeps.
The best way to prevent scarring from hives is to prevent the hives in the first place. Avoid those foods, chemicals and substances that have caused hives in the past. If you are unsure of what has caused your hives, keep a diary of food and substances you meet. Correlate your symptoms with the substances. When you suffer from hives, use cool compresses and over-the-counter antihistamines to relive your symptoms. If the itching persists, see your doctor. Several prescription medications help relieve the pain and itch of hives.
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