Hives: What triggers it and how to deal with itHives, urticaria or wheals are terms that describe the same thing: This skin condition is an allergic reaction that is usually very itchy like after contact with stinging nettles. There is only skin irritation, which is unpleasant but harmless. If there is also fever, the physician speaks of Hives. Depending on the duration, doctors distinguish between acute hives (less than 6 weeks). Chronic hives (longer than 6 weeks). The latter is more common in women than in men for as yet unknown reasons.
What causes hives?
Unlike other diseases of the skin, such as atopic dermatitis, heredity does not play a role in urticaria. External factors trigger this rash independently of a genetic predisposition. Hives can be caused, for example, by direct contact with plants or animals. Also a viral infection, drugs (penicillins) or certain foods, especially strawberries, fish or spices are frequent triggers. Physical factors such as heat, cold or prere on the skin can also be causes of hives. This depends not least on which form of hives is involved in the respective affected person. After skin irritation caused by external factors, the skin irritations in hives are almost always caused by the body's own messenger substance histamine. Histamine leads to both the wheals and the itching.
Are there different forms of hives?
Basically, several forms of hives are distinguished:
– Spontaneous urticaria – Chronic urticaria – Inducible urticaria
Spontaneous – also acute – urticaria is most common. As the name suggests, the wheals appear immediately and without prior signs very quickly on the skin all over the body. Responsible for the development of this type of hives is often a food, an infection by viruses or also the contact with plant and animal substances.
The acute hives usually disappear within a few days up to a maximum of a few weeks again by itself. If it lasts longer, it is called chronic urticaria. The cause of this form of hives is often a medication that is taken at regular intervals by the affected person, or a certain food that is not tolerated.
Inducible hives almost always originate from a specific stimulus. The wheals form because one was exposed to light or too high temperature fluctuations between cold and heat for too long. This form of urticaria – in contrast to the two previously mentioned – does not occur all over the body. The wheals are only visible on those parts of the skin that have been exposed to the external influence.
In addition, in medicine, the individual forms of hives are distinguished according to their triggers.
What does urticaria look like on human skin??
Hives are mainly manifested by reddish wheals on the skin, which can appear anywhere on the human body. Hives are Edema – i.e. accumulations of water – which are caused by the leakage of plasma from the vessels. The skin irritations vary in size and can occur in isolated or connected areas of the skin. As a consequence, these have several negative characteristics for those affected: not only are they anything but beautiful to look at. The hives are also agonizing and annoying because of the itching, but they are usually not dangerous.
However, there is also a dangerous special form of hives. In addition to the wheals, there may be swelling of the subcutaneous tie or mucous membranes, often around the eyes or on the lips. If the respiratory tract is affected, shortness of breath occurs – there is a risk of suffocation. Doctors speak of angioedema. In most cases, the triggers of the swellings are the same factors as in hives.
How is hives treated?
The treatment of hives depends on which form of urticaria it is. The dermatologist makes the diagnosis based on a physical examination. In addition, he will try to inquire about the cause. If it is spontaneous urticaria, it usually does not last very long, so that the hives often disappear completely after one day without any intervention. If, on the other hand, the hives are prolonged, doctors recommend taking an antihistamine – usually in tablet form – to counteract the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
If chronic hives are present, further testing such as a Allergy testing, urine, stool and blood tests be necessary.
In the case of inducible urticaria, the main focus is on the "search for traces". The triggering irritant – if known – should then be avoided if possible. Keep a diary of complaints and consistently record when wheals appear. However, you do not have to worry too much, because the organism also reacts with skin irritations, for example, in the context of a banal infection.
Can I prevent hives by taking preventive measures?
An avoidance strategy may be the most successful method in the prevention of urticaria: Once the allergen for hives has been identified, it should be consistently avoided. This can be quite simple, but sometimes it also means a change of lifestyle. Likewise, you should wash your hands frequently if you have had contact with other people. This way you can reduce the risk of contracting an infectious disease, because this can also be the cause of hives.
Jan Henkel was born in Heidelberg in 1980. He completed his studies with a degree in economics. With a magister successfully from. Today, among other things, he works as a freelance copywriter and devotes himself primarily to topics from the health and medical fields.