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Hives: the alarm bells of our body

June 23, 2021 • read

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Hives: the alarm bells of our body

Anyone who’s ever found themselves feeling itchy or uncomfortable after eating certain foods, or taking a specific kind of medication, could be familiar with hives. This is a very common type of raised welt that develops on our skin and can vary in severity, depending on what’s causing their appearance.

While it’s possible to have a minor case of hives that will go away on its own, that’s not always the case. Sometimes hives can be a signal that something more serious is happening in our bodies. When it’s severe, it can even be a trigger that we should seek medical attention.

This warning system is most often our bodies’ way of telling us that we’re having a reaction to something. It may be a big reaction or a little reaction, but understanding the signs and what they mean could save your life.

What are hives?

Hives are also known as urticaria. They’re raised welts or wheals that appear on the skin. Most of the time, they function as an alarm system for our bodies, alerting us to an allergic reaction. 

There are also a number of less common forms of hives, such as:

  • Temperature-induced hives
  • Infection-induced hives
  • Dermatographism, caused by firm pressure or scratches to the skin

Additionally, there is a long-term form of hives, known as “chronic hives”. This form of hives can last anywhere from six weeks to several months of the year at a time, and has no direct, identifiable cause. In some cases, chronic hives can be a symptom of another underlying cause, such as:

  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Type 1 diabetes

What are some common symptoms and signs of hives?

Most forms of hives have similar signs and symptoms, although they can range from very mild to severe, depending on the situation. Some common symptoms and signs of hives include:

  • Itching
  • Red, pink, or skin-coloured welts that can be any size and appear anywhere on the body
  • Swelling around the affected area
  • Pain or tenderness at the affected areas

What causes hives?

In most cases, hives are a signal that our bodies are having an allergic reaction to food, medicine, or environmental irritants around us. When we have a reaction to something, our bodies release histamines into our bloodstream. Those chemicals are designed to help protect us, but in some people, they cause the symptoms we see associated with hives.

A number of well-known allergic triggers can cause you to develop hives. These including common allergens, such as:

  • Pollen
  • Certain foods or alcohol, food additives
  • Bug bites, stings
  • Certain medications 
  • Infection
  • Latex
  • Blood products 
  • Animal dander

Although rare, inducible hives can also be caused physical stimuli, such as:

  • Scratching 
  • Cold temperature
  • Increased body temperature
  • Exercise 
  • Sunlight
  • Water 
  • Vibration

How are hives diagnosed?

The doctor will most likely want you to have a physical exam done, as well as ask you some questions about exposure to possible allergens.

The doctor may suggest that you keep a diary to determine possible causes of your hives. If the condition reoccurs or become chronic, the doctor may suggest you have blood or skin tests performed and visit with an allergist.

How are hives treated?

The first step towards treating hives is typically using over-the-counter antihistamines, or home remedies suggested by your doctor.

If these don’t reduce your symptoms, the doctor may suggest a prescription antihistamine medication, or other types of medications, such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Histamine (H-2) blockers
  • Asthma drugs including antihistamines
  • Immune-suppressing drugs
  • Certain antidepressants

When should I speak with an allergist?

If you’re experiencing regular flare-ups of your hives or the symptoms you’re experiencing are severe, it’s a good idea to talk to an allergist.

They have the expertise to help you identify possible triggers for your hives. They can also teach you some techniques for managing your symptoms.

Can Maple help me with my hives?

Yes, we can. We specialize in helping our patients identify their conditions, so you can get the treatment you need. Part of that commitment to top-quality services involves giving you access to specialists, like allergists. These helpful professionals can offer you more in-depth methods for identifying and managing your condition.

With Maple, you’ll take the first steps towards a happier, healthier life. Schedule a visit with an allergist on our platform today.

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