Urticaria (Hives)

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Last Medical Review: March 26, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
What is urticaria? (March 26, 2020)

What is that

It is a disorder characterized by raised patches that appear on the skin, red or pink, and which resemble an irritation caused by nettles. The cause is unknown in about half of the cases. Known causes are:

  • allergy to particular foods (examples: strawberries, molluscs, eggs, nuts, chocolate), to cosmetics or drugs (e.g. aspirin);
  • viral diseases.

Urticaria can also be triggered by strong emotions or excessive temperature, cold, exposure to the sun or humidity.

How it manifests itself

The most common symptom is itching. Immediately after the onset of the itch, swollen patches are observed, more or less large, which can appear at any point of the body and disappear after a few hours. Multiple patches can join together to form a larger spot. Wider patches look lighter in the center or redder in the edges. In some cases there may be no swelling but only redness of the skin or blisters may appear.

What are the risks

The disorder disappears on its own within a few days, but in chronic urticaria it can remain for many months. The greatest risk is that swelling of the face, mouth and throat can seriously hinder breathing.

What should be done

  • If you have recognized with certainty which is the particular product causing the allergy, stop using it immediately.
  • To calm the itching, apply cold compresses on the skin or take baths in cold water: hot water makes the ailment worse.
  • Avoid applying cosmetic products or drugs on the skin that can cause allergies.
  • Wear light clothes and avoid too tight laundry.
  • Do not take drugs on your own initiative: if you think you need drugs, consult your doctor.
  • If your doctor prescribes medications to treat urticaria, carefully follow his instructions.

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