Why am I suddenly experiencing hives?
Nearly 20% of people will get hives at some point in their lifetime. While they may not be life-threatening, hives can potentially cause both physical and emotional issues, particularly if they occur frequently.
Hives are predominantly caused by allergies. Hives can either be classified as acute urticaria or chronic urticaria. Whereas acute urticaria develops suddenly and lasts about 24-48 hours, chronic urticaria can last more than six weeks. Most people experience recurring bouts of acute urticarial. However, non-allergic hives, also referred to as idiopathic urticaria, are independent of any allergens. Research shows that non-allergic hives tend to affect more females than males.
What do hives look like?
It’s usually very easy to identify hives, thanks to their highly distinctive symptoms:
- Swollen plaques or welts
- Pinkish-red bumps
- Symptoms often appear suddenly
- The welts are usually itchy and have a striking resemblance to mosquito bites and nettle rashes
- Can appear across your body in either lines or large upraised skin surface areas
- More likely to appear on your throat, ears, face, tongue, and lips
What are the potential causes of hives?
Hives will appear on your skin when your body releases histamine. The production of histamine can be caused by a number of factors, including;
- Changes in temperature
- Dust mites
- Animal fur and hair
- Food allergens such as coloring agents and preservatives
- Exposure to the sun and water
- Tight-fitting garments
What conditions look strikingly similar to hives?
There is one particular condition that looks strikingly similar to hives. This condition is known as Angioedema.
With Angioedema, the swelling happens right beneath your skin. The term edema is used to describe a deep swelling that appears around your eyes, hand, lips, genitals as well as feet.
Angioedema symptoms usually stay longer than urticaria, even though the swelling may subside within 24 hours.
How is urticaria/hives diagnosed?
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam. Depending on the outcome of that particular exam, your doctor may recommend additional skin tests as well as blood tests to determine the primary cause of your hives.
Some persistent hives may warrant a skin biopsy to help establish the root cause. If the cause of the hives is identified, such as an allergen trigger, you might need to undergo further tests.
As already explained, the majority of urticaria cases will clear up on their own within a day or so. And episodes of hives should stop disappearing and reappearing within a few weeks.
What treatment options are available for hives in Singapore?
- Antihistamine tablets: Antihistamines are usually the first line of treatment against hives.
- Oral steroids: If your hives symptoms don’t subside even after taking an antihistamine medication, your doctor may recommend steroids, such as prednisone.
- Injection biologics: There is another treatment option, an injectable prescription medication.
If your hives symptoms persist for more than six weeks, it could be a sign that you have a chronic condition. It’s highly advised to schedule an appointment with your doctor if your hives continue for this long.
How can I manage my hives at home?
- Keep track of your flares or hives episodes
- Try to figure out the potential causes or triggers – because hives are majorly caused by allergies, you can easily prevent them when you know the exact triggers
- Wear loose-fitting clothing to allow air to freely circulate all over your skin
- Ensure your environment is always cool
- Lower your stress levels
- Do not scratch your hives
Hives generally clear up on their own without the intervention of any treatment. However, in some cases, some people may experience a few complications such as anxiety, depression, and anaphylaxis, which can be a life-threatening condition.
You are strongly advised to seek immediate medical attention if you:
- Are not certain about the exact cause of your hives or rash.
- Experience intense itching or the appearance of the rash is suspicious or alarming.
- If your hives symptoms persist for more than 24 hours.
- Experience painful hives that also have bruised appearances.
- Experience angioedema-like symptoms such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.