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What are Hives

We are not talking about bees here. Hives go by many names. Rash, wheal, bump, urticaria, dermatitis, and welts are all synonymous with hives. There are almost as many reasons for hives as there are names including stress, food, sun, plants and animals.


Some are as simple as heat. If the sweat glands are blocked, the result is prickly heat, heat rash or heat hives. The simple solution is to allow the skin to cool. The rash disappears. Wearing loose fitting cool clothing and avoiding hot humid environments will keep it from coming back.


In most cases it's not that easy. Not all hives are that easy to treat or prevent. Many times the most difficult part of treating an outbreak of hives is to determine the cause. Contact dermatitis is the result of (as its name implies) contact with an allergy-causing substance. This can be the lanolin in wool clothing or bedding, the preservatives and formaldehyde releasers common in personal care products, the sap or juice of certain plants. Mangos for example can cause contact dermatitis if their skin or sap comes in contact with a sensitive person.


Hives can also be the result of inhaling an allergen. Ask anyone with cat, dog or bunny allergy about the rash they can have by just sitting in a room that has been occupied by one of these animals. Seasonal allergies can also cause hives as well as itchy, watery eyes. Some people with mold allergies will react with hives as well.


Speaking of molds, food allergies and allergy to medications can also cause hives. Molds are found in certain cheeses and are used to make some antibiotic medications. If you suspect you are sensitive to a certain food, you can eliminate it from your diet for 10 days see if the hives disappear. If you experience hives after starting a new medication, contact your doctor immediately.


If you ever experience hives along with difficulty breathing or if you have a change in your heart beat (heart racing or beating slowly) call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room, as this can be a serious allergic reaction.


Spring and early summer can cause another type of hives. If upon your first few exposures to sunlight after a long winter, you experience raised bumps, blisters and itching this can be solar dermatitis or polymorphic light eruption. The common name is sun poisoning. What happens is that your skin cells change color because of the exposure to the sun and your body misidentifies these skin cells as evil enemy invaders. Just a small change in melanin can trigger this reaction. For many people, it is only the first few exposures to strong sunlight that trigger the reaction. For others, any sunlight exposure can cause these hives and they must cover completely up and limit exposure even in winter months.


To soothe the itch, pain, and discomfort caused by hives you can soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath like Aveeno, apply a oatmeal cream such as Allersearch Moisturizing Oatmeal Skin Cream, or use a topical steroid such as a cortisone ointment.


If your hives persist for weeks or months on end then you have a chronic hive condition. If you have chronic hives, it is time to consult a specialist. An allergist or immunologist will be able to conduct tests to determine the cause of your chronic hives. If your hives cover a large area, your physician may perform blood tests instead of the standard skin challenge or patch tests. When scheduling any allergy testing it is important to let the office know all over the counter and prescription medications that you are currently taking. Many medications interfere with tests and can prevent you from getting accurate results. Blood, scratch, and patch tests can give inaccurate results if antihistamines or other medications mask your reaction.


Wishing you the best of health
The Allergy Store

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