Hives or urticaria is red itchy spots that appear on the skin, their bump-like appearance being the reason for the given name. They usually occur when a person develops an allergy to a drug, insect sting or food item. Infections or stress may also lead to the condition due to the release of certain chemicals such as histamine or mast in the body. Histamine is released when the body is in contact with toxins or pollen. This is a common condition that usually occurs in individuals who are more prone to allergies.
Normally hives lasts about one to two days and in this duration it may change rapidly in size and location by the hour. It may appear to have completed receded, only to quickly reappear in another spot. Hives may be accompanied by a deeper swelling known as angioedema and may also appear in mucous membranes, the eyes and lips.
Chronic urticaria lasts about six weeks and in about 80% of the cases cannot be traced to any allergic reaction. Urticaria may cause difficulty in breathing and shock but this occurs only in rare cases and hives hardly leads to life threatening situations. Hives affects 15 to 20% of the population at some time in the course of their lives. Acute hives in children may be caused due to a viral infection.
It is said that having hives may lead to stress, but stress does not lead to hives. However some studies show that emotional stress may cause hives, as do extreme hot or cold weather conditions. Chronic stress and tension may cause hives, so it is important to find ways to relax and take some time off your normal routine. Stress affects the immune system and may indirectly lead to hives especially when it persists for a long period of time. Stress is known to affect the hormonal balance and the body chemistry leading to hives.
Hives usually recedes by itself without any serious implications. In severe conditions, drugs or injections may be prescribed. Only in rare cases where a swelling blocks the airway and prevents the person from breathing properly, would it be described as an emergency.
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: January 27, 2023