05 Nov Treating Chronic Hives
Having regular hives covering your body is frustrating enough, but chronic hives can seem unbearable. Spectrum Dermatology can help you or your child quickly and effectively treat chronic hives. Hives is a type of skin rash that is most often triggered by a reaction to irritants such as food or a certain medicine—but even stress can trigger an outbreak. Hives present as raised, itchy bumps that might be red or skin-colored. In most cases hives will simply go away on their own, but chronic or particularly severe hives will require care from a dermatologist.
The skin imperfections that hives cause are called wheals or welts. They can come in all shapes and many colors, and can range in size from tiny pinpricks to the size of a large dinner plate. Most hives are circular, but sometimes they look like thin lines. Chronic hives will occur most days for a minimum of six weeks. When this happens, the technical term is chronic urticaria.
Understanding Chronic Hives
Treating chronic hives depends on what type of hives a person has. A full medical history will need to be taken. Most people with chronic hives are otherwise healthy, but a complete medical exam will rule out other potential causes (like an infection). Some diseases, like thyroid conditions or diabetes, can also cause hives. A medical test might be ordered to further rule out these possibilities.
There are some medications that can also cause hives, but hives are more often caused by other triggers such as pressure on the skin, insect bites, and many other factors. Ruling out triggers, perhaps changing medications (under the guidance of a doctor), and making lifestyle changes are all typical steps for reducing hive flare-ups.
What the Patient Can Do
It’s important to keep track of your flare-ups. This is a very helpful tool in identifying triggers, especially when there are no underlying conditions causing your hives. Some of the most common food triggers include peanuts, nuts, shellfish, and eggs. Flare-ups typically appear within 60 minutes of consuming these foods. Those with a latex allergy often have hives flare up after consuming bananas, mangos, chestnuts, or kiwis. Hives will often flare up 12 – 24 hours after eating these foods.
Some patients have a flare-up after consuming preservatives or food coloring, as well as certain spices or supplements, or even using some cosmetics, toothpastes, or skin care products. Hives from these exposures can happen right away or take days, weeks, or even months to appear. Some of the most common medications to cause hives include antibiotics, ibuprofen, and aspirin, and flare-ups can occur virtually any time after taking these drugs.
Triggers to Watch for Hives
The cold can also trigger hives in some people, with flare-ups occurring when the person starts to warm up. Heat, likewise, can cause a flare-up which typically occurs within a few minutes. Ultraviolet light either from the sun or a tanning bed can cause a flare-up in some people within minutes. Vibrations are a rarer cause of hives, but it does happen in some cases and will usually occur within minutes.
An adrenaline surge from just about anything ranging from stress to working out may cause a flare-up that lasts 30 – 60 minutes on average. Pressure on the skin from tight clothing, straps, or sitting too long makes some people experience a flare-up. Finally, water is an extremely rare cause of hives in some people, and when this is the case the flare-up occurs 1 – 3 minutes after water exposure.
As you take note of your flare-ups, also take photos of each episode. Pictures help dermatologists pinpoint what kind of hives you have—particularly since many skin conditions can look like hives. You can also get some itch relief at home by wearing loose cotton clothing, avoiding excess heat, and applying a cold compress to the skin. Anti-itch medications can be helpful, as can fragrance-free moisturizers.
It’s important to try to remain calm when you have a flare-up since stress can exacerbate the flare-up. You can enjoy peace of mind knowing that treatment is available. Make sure to carefully follow your dermatologist’s treatment plan and work with your doctor to fine-tune an approach that works for you. This may include changing medication dosages, adding a medication, or changing it. Unfortunately, extensive allergy testing often doesn’t help, and even though even chronic hives can go away on their own you still deserve immediate relief now. Contact Spectrum Dermatology today at 480-948-8400 to schedule your chronic hives appointment.