Hives Allergy

In the United States, more than half the population (54.6%) suffer from one or more allergies. A study estimates that about 27% of children who are sensitive to food allergens have some sort of skin allergy. Hives or Urticaria is a common allergic reaction exhibited on the skin. It is an outbreak in which pale, red, itchy, swollen bumps appear on the skin. It can appear within minutes of ingesting the food containing the allergen or coming in contact with the irritant.

Hives Allergy

essentially refers to this skin condition brought about by allergies.

Hives Allergy

There could be a lot of other non allergic reasons associated with hives. Chronic hives (hives lasting longer than 6 weeks) often has reasons other than allergies. Acute viral infection, exercise, pressure, temperature extremes and sunlight are some of the other causes of the said allergic reaction.

The affected areas generally look like a red inflamed and elevated beds of skin surrounded by a red base. These are called “Wheals”. They can appear on any part of the body and can cover the lips, face, tongue, throat and ears. The sizes of the hives can vary from a pin point to having several inches in diameter. They can also merge together to form areas known as plaques. Hives due to allergies generally last a few hours or for a few days before they assimilate back into the skin.

How is Hives Allergy caused?

The reason could be allergic or no-allergic. In the allergic cases, they are caused when the immune system reacts adversely to the allergen and causes the production of the Immunoglobulin E IgE antibodies. These antibodies react and bind with the allergen causing the mast cells to release histamine and proinflammatory substances like cytokines. In the non allergic cases also, histamine is released even though it is not IgE mediated. Histamine causes dilation of the blood vessels and results in fluid leakage from superficial blood vessels. These causes the skin to form wheals. They are painful and can leave behind a bruise. If not treated they can progress into a skin infection called urticarial vasculitis.

Causes of Hives Allergy

As already discussed it is caused by immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies causing the release of histamine and other pro inflammatory mediators. Other non allergic reasons of the said allergy is caused by the following conditions:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections
  • Non allergic urticaria
  • Dietary histamine poisoning
  • Stress

Allergy Testing

If hives are a regular occurrence and can be linked with any food item or environmental allergen it would be prudent to go to an allergist and getting yourself treated. Various methods are available to test for the allergen causing the reaction. Skin prick and Patch testing essentially involves the same principle. In both the methods, the allergen is reintroduced in the body. If wheals appear on the skin surface the allergy is confirmed. Blood tests like that of the RAST or ELISA can be conducted to look for specific antibodies in blood.

Getting oneself tested is an important step in preventing and managing the discussed skin condition.

Treatment and Management of Hives

Hives-AllergyIt is easier to treat hives caused by allergic reasons than those caused by non allergic reasons. Chronic urticaria may be treatment resistant and very hard to treat. Allergic urticaria may be treated in the following ways:

  • Antihistamines

    : Antihistamines like loratadine, fexofenadine, can bring down the histamine levels and improve symptoms.

  • Corticosteroids

    : Corticosteroids like prednisone works the best in controlling the inflammatory mediators and eliminate the red bumps on the skin.

  • Anti Depressants

    : Tricyclic antidepressants like doxepin can work as a histamine blocker and improve symptoms.

  • Stress reduction therapy

    : Managing emotional upheavals and reducing stress can help with the discussed skin condition.

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