Many substances can trigger chronic hives

Chronic hives are raised, often itchy red welts on the surface of the skin. They are usually an allergic reaction to food or medicine.

When you have an allergic reaction to a substance, histamine and other chemicals are released into your bloodstream, causing itching, swelling, and other symptoms. Hives are a common reaction, especially in people with other allergies like hay fever.

When swelling or welts occur around the face, especially the lips and eyes, it is called angioedema; swelling from angioedema can also occur around your hands, feet, and throat.

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Many substances can trigger chronic hives:

  • Medications
  • Shellfish, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, and other foods
  • Pollen
  • Animal dander (especially cats)
  • Insect bites

Chronic Hives may also develop from:

  • Infections like mononucleosis or illness (including lupus, other autoimmune diseases, and leukemia)
  • Emotional stress
  • Extreme cold or sun exposure
  • Excessive perspiration

Symptoms of Chronic Hives

  • Itching
  • Swelling of the surface of the skin into red or skin colored welts (called wheals) with clearly defined edges
  • The welts may enlarge, spread, and join together to form larger areas of flat, raised skin. They can also change shape, disappear, and reappear within minutes or hours. The welts tend to start suddenly and resolve quickly. When you press the center of a red welt, it blanches (turns white).

Treatment for Chronic Hives

Treatment may not be needed if the hives are mild. They may disappear on their own. To reduce itching and swelling:

  • Apply cool compresses to the welts. This may reduce swelling and pain. If a large part of your body is affected, soak in a cool bath. Avoid hot baths or showers.
  • Avoid irritating the area with tight-fitting clothing.
  • Apply Calamine lotion.
  • Take antihistamines.

If your reaction is severe, especially if the swelling involves your throat, you may require an emergency shot of epinephrine (adrenaline) or steroids. Hives in the throat may obstruct the airway. Any swelling in the throat or difficulty breathing with hives should be considered an emergency. If facial swelling or difficulty breathing occur, or if hives persist despite treatment, contact your physician immediately!

Hives may be uncomfortable, but they generally are harmless and disappear on their own. In most cases, the exact cause of hives cannot be identified.

Prevention of Chronic Hives

Avoid exposure to substances that give you allergic reactions. Don't wear tight-fitting clothing and avoid hot baths or showers just after an episode of hives. These can both cause the hives to return. Finally, ensure your immune system is strong to guard against potential allergic reactions.

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