Hives are raised bumps that appear on the surface of the skin and are also named urticaria. They are sometimes itchy or even hurt and can have various colors, ranging from red to pink or even the same color as the skin. There are several possible causes for hives, usually an allergy or the body's reaction to a toxic or irritant substance.
Most cases of hives are not serious and represent just a temporary issue that can be cured with treatment for allergy. Sometimes, they even disappear on their own, without any intervention. There are also severe cases of chronic hives that are caused by a very strong allergy and require medical attention.
Hives are a pretty obvious condition because of the trademark welts that show up on the skin surface. Sometimes, these are the same color as the skin and harder to notice but they can also have a stronger nuance of red. Their shape is variable, usually they are small and circular but can also have a larger size, irregular shape or even look like a ring. Hives normally affect only parts of the body and emerge in groups. They can be itchy and sometimes they spread to other areas and get larger in size.
Hives are temporary, they can be gone in half an hour or last more than one day. However, new ones will usually appear to replace the ones that disappear. Pressing an individual hive can change its color to white, they can also unite to form a larger one or change their shape as they grow. There are several areas of the body where hives can develop.
Hives are a very common condition and about 20% of humans experience it at some point. It doesn't depend of a particular season, temperature or age of the person and can affect all races. Based on the duration of the outbreak, hives can be acute (temporary) or chronic (longer). The bumps can show up on any skin area of the body, but they are very rare on the feet soles or the palms.
Hives, also named wheals or bumps, are round lesions of a spongy nature that can emerge, disappear or change shape very fast. Normally, the skin around them is red and inflamed, being known as a flare. Some hives can be minuscule, while others can unite into a single enormous bumpy area.
Some hives are itchy while others are not, this depends on the person's sensitivity and the severity of the outbreak. The itchy sensation is caused by the nervous terminations located in the affected area of the skin.
Hives are the product of a long reaction of the body that eventually produces histamine, a compound that is generated in the skin. Skin zones near capillaries have a larger concentration of mast cells, which are special white cells with a histamine content. As a result of a chain of events, the cells are ordered to produce a number of strong chemicals, histamine being one of them.
Histamine has a direct effect on the cells, forcing blood vessels to shrink. This will make liquid come out of the blood, but not the red cells which are too big to pass through the walls. However, histamine will create an accumulation of fluid that forms the hive, with a red area around it due to the higher red cell content.
Hives are classified as either acute or chronic. Acute hives are less threatening and continue for a maximum of six weeks, typically a lot less. This is just an arbitrary limit, ant hives that last over six weeks are considered chronic.
Hives, especially the acute variety, are a mystery disease. They are normally believed to be caused by an allergic reaction to food or chemicals but the truth is that the real trigger remains unknown in most cases. This is also because usually acute hives disappear without any treatment, before any serious testing can be done.
The most common treatment in such situations are antihistamines, drugs that inhibit mast cells and prevent them from releasing their chemical charge. However, these pills must be taken on a strict schedule. They only prevent the release of new histamines but can't stop the action of those already in the skin. Some antihistamines don't require a prescription but are still effective. However, they can have a sedative side effect, which is not caused by the newer drugs that are only given by prescription.
Chronic hives last for a period longer than six weeks, during which there have to be at least two eruptions per week. Chronic hives will not go away without treatment and can be very persistent. The problem is that in half of the cases, the trigger is never identified, even after rigorous testing. According to research, 75 percent of cases of chronic hives last more than one year, half of them for five years or more, while 20 percent persist for over ten years.
In most situations where the root of the problem is unknown, doctors treat the symptoms and wait for the disease to eventually stop. Antihistamines in the form of pills can prevent mast cells from releasing histamine but they are also a tricky treatment for prolonged periods, due to drowsiness and other side effects.
There are also various external cures for hives. Some creams and ointments relive the sensation of itching by sedating the nerve terminations around hives. Camphor and menthol are well-known to have this effect, as well as other compounds like pramoxine or diphenhydramine. The big advantage of these creams is that they are available over the counter, without prescription. Stronger products with cortisone are only given by prescription but are not a lot more effective.
Elma 01 Skin Ointment is another excellent choice because it will calm the affected area of the skin and is free of steroids.