Hives, also called urticaria, are itchy, red bumps on the skin. They typically appear as an allergic reaction to food or medication but can also be caused from emotional stress and environmental factors. Treatment for hives includes antihistamine medication, topical lotion and lifestyle changes. Roughly 15 to 20 percent of all adults will be affected by hives during their lifetime, according to healthy-skin-guide.com.
There are two types of hives: ordinary hives and physical hives. Ordinary hives appear suddenly, in several different places and for no apparent reason. These hives come and go in waves and can last minutes or several hours. Ordinary hives tend to be itchy, swell and turn red. Breakout episodes can last a few days, weeks and, in some cases, years. Physical hives, on the other hand, are caused from dermatographism, or physical stimulation.
Angioedema, similar to hives, is an allergic skin reaction that manifests as a swelling beneath the skin rather than on the surface. This typically occurs near the eyes and lips. Like hives, angiodema is usually harmless but can be life-threatening if it causes the throat or tongue to swell, which may block the airway.
Allergic reactions to foods such as nuts, seafood (including fish), chocolate, berries and milk are common causes of ordinary hives. Viral infections, insect bites and medications can also cause ordinary hives.
Physical hives are usually triggered by the environment such as cold temperatures, sun exposure or from scratching. Other triggers include perfume, deodorant, pets, fungus, bacteria or stress.
Chronic, long-term reoccurring hives are typically idiopathic, meaning the trigger is unknown.
When an individual is stressed, his body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The sudden release of those hormones creates a hormonal imbalance that can cause hives in sensitive individuals.
The most common treatment for hives and angioedema are antihistamines, a medication used for treatment of allergies and hypersensitive reactions. However, in more severe cases of hives, creams and lotions containing steroids may be applied topically, directly on the skin where the hives appear. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding allergen-causing foods or finding ways to cope with emotional stress, can also help prevent future hive outbreaks.
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