Aches and pains remain one of the common reasons people visit the clinic.
Ever wondered why there are days we vigorously scratch our rashes or our friends drop comments stating our skin rash resembles a map? Sometimes the mere action of picking up a pen can induce an itch, which then leads to swelling and redness.
This is known as hives. And it’s more common than you would think. Read on to find out more about this itchy situation.
Hives, medically known as Urticaria, comes from the term Urtica Dioica, the stinging nettle plant abundantly found in Europe. Hives are your body’s response to irritation and come in the form of little marks on your skin similar to mosquito bites.
Hives are typically represented by an itchy wheal (swelling of the skin) surrounded by the occasional redness. The wheal tends to be slightly paler than your surrounding skin colour, is swollen, very itchy, and with lesions. Thankfully, these will usually resolve within or after 24 hours.
If you notice wheals or have any persistent itchy redness on your skin, consult your doctor for proper treatment and ways to reduce or manage possible symptoms of hives and rashes.
Hives occur when there is a sudden release of a chemical agent (such as histamine) into your skin.
Histamine is a substance that causes blood vessels to dilate and leak, leading to extra fluid accumulation in the tissue. If this has occurred, you may experience swelling, warmness and a slight itch on the affected region.
There are a risk factors that trigger histamine to be released, these are:
The cause of your hives may be different from someone else. Determining this will require a medical history and/or physical examination.
Visiting your doctor can help to determine what your skin is reacting to and if you have hives.
In some cases, patients with hives may have no known direct or obvious trigger for their condition but can be easily identified for others.
Below is a table with common stimuli that can induce hives, and depending on the type of stimuli, the condition can be further sub categorised.
|Stimuli||Name of the hives / urticaria|
|Cold temperature (cold air or water)||Cold urticaria|
|Hot temperature (hot air or water)||Heat urticaria|
|Sweat from to exercising/heightened emotions||Cholinergic urticaria|
|Pressure on the skin surface from heavy bags, seat belts, bra straps, or belt lines||Delayed pressure urticaria|
|Tight clothing or scratching of the skin||Dermographism|
|Towel drying after a hot shower||Vibratory urticaria|
|Contact with water||Aquagenic urticaria|
|Substance absorbed through the skin from contact with latex, saliva, flour, meat, fish, vegetables, caterpillar, or stinging nettle||Contact urticaria|
It is important to note that these symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of an allergic reaction, which can potentially be dangerous. Always seek medical attention if you suspect you are having an allergic reaction.
You can discuss any concerns with your doctor regarding symptoms of hives for further evaluation and treatment.
Hives can be categorised according to the duration of each symptom:
Chronic urticaria can be further sub categorised into:
Hives are a very common condition in Singapore, affecting 1 in every 5 Singaporeans (42%) at some point in their lives. Although hives are not a life-threatening condition, its wax and wane periods are enough to cause some discomfort and disruption in their daily lives.
Consider discussing any concerns with your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of hives.
Hives are not a self-limiting condition but avoiding proper treatment can lead to anaphylaxis — a life-threatening allergic reaction.
You are advised to monitor your symptoms and resolve them if they do not show any signs of improvement and progresses to spread all over your body and face. This could then lead to a slew of other reactions such as shortness of breath, wheezing, and feeling faint.
If you experience any of the above, please seek medical attention immediately.
Luckily, hives are not infectious, and you will not contract it from someone with hives — be it airborne or through direct contact.
While hives are a subset of allergy, it can occur without the presence of an allergen. Triggers such as dust mites, mould, pet dander, pollen, chemicals, drugs, latex, and food allergens can trigger hives-like symptoms. This can be confusing for both patients and physicians to deduce underlying medical conditions.
You are advised to speak to your doctor for further evaluation of any hives or allergy symptoms.
The short answer is there is a low chance of you succumbing to hives.
However, hives can be an early sign of anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal.
Signs of anaphylaxis include:
Anaphylaxis is a treatable medical condition. If you show any signs of anaphylaxis, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Hives can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, these include:
It is advisable to speak to your doctor if you notice any signs of hives or if symptoms of hives persist and worsen over a long period of time for further evaluation and treatment.
In most cases, hives symptoms are temporary and can be resolved on their own.
However, it is always recommended to see your doctor if symptoms:
Hives are usually clinically diagnosed by your doctor by viewing your medical history for a better understanding of what could be triggering your hives. Depending on your individual conditions or if your doctor suspects an allergic reaction, you may be offered to do an allergy test followed by allergy treatment. Occasionally, your doctor may also require blood tests to be done to evaluate and rule out any underlying medical condition you may have that could trigger hives.
Mild or transient hives may resolve their own without any medical treatment. However, if
the itchiness is troubling you on a daily basis – be it pain or other symptoms – that leads to feeling unwell or a fever, you are advised to seek medical attention for hives treatment.
If you show any signs or symptoms of hives, your doctor will usually prescribe you with antihistamines to reduce symptoms. For severe cases, steroid medication, H2-antagonist Montelukast, or newer injectables such as biologics omalizumab may be prescribed instead.
During your consultation, your doctor will go through some triggers that could possibly be causing hives and ways to reduce the chances of a recurrence.
Although hives are not a life-threatening condition on its own, one fourth of patients with hives can have coexisting angioedema.
Angioedema is a medical condition that causes swelling and fluid build-up in the deeper part of the skin. It mainly occurs over the softer, gravitational-dependent regions of the body such as the eyes, lips, genitals, hands, and feet.
More importantly, hives can also be an early sign of an allergic response known as anaphylaxis. If you ever experience lightheadedness, narrowing of your airways, wheezing, swelling of your eyes and lips, feeling unwell or abdominal pain, please call an emergency hotline and seek immediate medical attention as a severe allergic reaction can lead to death.
Aches and pains remain one of the common reasons people visit the clinic.
Pruritus ani, also known as anal itching, is a medical condition where a person experiences itchiness around the anal region.
In this article, we will clarify some pressing questions that the public may have regarding ...
Recently a patient walked into the clinic with a concern of acne on the shoulder that has remained unresolved over the course of several months.
Acne is a skin inflammatory condition that virtually affects every adolescent at some point during their teenage years. However, some adults may remain affected during their twenties or thirties.