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Urticaria

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Urticaria, also known as Hives, affects about 20 percent of people at some time during their lives. It can be triggered by many substances or situations and usually starts as an itchy patch of skin that turns into swollen red welts. When an allergic reaction occurs, the body releases a protein called histamine. When histamine is released, the tiny blood vessels known as capillaries leak fluid. The fluid accumulates in the skin and causes a rash.

There are two types of Urticaria – short-lived (acute) and long-term (chronic). Neither is typically life-threatening, though any swelling in the throat or any other symptom that restricts breathing requires immediate emergency care.

  • It can be triggered through:
  • medicines, such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ACE inhibitors, used for high blood pressure, etc.
  • food items, such as nuts, shellfish, food additives, eggs, strawberries, wheat products, etc.
  • infections, including influenza, the common cold, glandular fever, and hepatitis B
  • bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and strep throat
  • extreme temperatures or changes in temperature, high body temperature, etc.
  • chronic illness, such as thyroid disease or lupus

Prevention

Apart from avoiding the known allergens see an allergist, who is experienced to find out the cause to your hives and may recommend medications to prevent it or reduce the severity of symptoms. Your allergist can suggest a treatment depending on several factors, including how uncomfortable are your hives. It may be available only by prescription or an over the counter treatment.

Your allergist may want to conduct skin tests, blood tests and urine tests to identify the cause of your hives. If a specific food is the suspected trigger, your allergist may do a skin-prick test or a blood test to confirm the diagnosis; once the trigger is identified, you’ll likely be advised to avoid that food and products made from it.

Treatment

Antihistamines

They are frequently recommended to treat Urticaria. They work by blocking the effect of histamine. They are effective and long-lasting (may be taken once a day) and have few side effects. Your allergist may recommend a combination of two or three antihistamines to treat your hives, along with cold compresses or anti-itch balms to ease the symptoms.

Prednisone

Several cases of urticaria may require temporary treatment with prednisone, a similar corticosteroid medication or an immune modulator, which can reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Epinephrine

If the reaction involves swelling of tongue or lips, and causing trouble in breathing, your allergist may prescribe an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector. These can be early symptoms of anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction that impairs breathing and can send the body into shock. The only treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrine.