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Urticaria

What is urticaria?

Urticaria is also called hives. Hives can change size and shape, and appear anywhere on your skin. They can be mild or severe and last from a few minutes to a few days.


What causes urticaria?

Hives are caused by an immune system reaction. The following are common triggers:

  • Food allergies, such as to nuts, eggs, or shellfish

  • Food dyes, additives, or preservatives

  • Medicine allergies, such as to ibuprofen or antibiotics

  • Infections, such as a cold or mono

  • Bug bites

  • Pets or plants

  • Stress

How is urticaria diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your medical history and allergies. You may also need the following tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Skin test: Your caregiver puts a small amount of possible trigger onto your skin. He covers the area with a patch that stays on for 2 days. Then he checks your skin for a reaction.

  • Challenge test: Your caregiver gives you increasing doses of what may be causing your hives and watches for a reaction.

How is urticaria treated?

Hives usually go away without treatment. You may need the following medicines to treat your symptoms:

  • Antihistamines: This medicine may be given to help decrease itching.

  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease redness, pain, and swelling.

What are the risks of urticaria?

You may develop angioedema. This is when the tissue right below your skin swells. This is most common around the eyes, face, and lips. Hives may be a sign of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is an emergency. Seek care immediately if you feel dizzy, your mouth tingles, or you have trouble swallowing or breathing.

How can I manage my urticaria?

  • Cool your skin: This may help decrease your itching. Apply a cool pack to your hives. Dip a hand towel in cool water, wring it out, and place it on your hives. You may also soak your skin in a cool oatmeal bath.

  • Do not rub your hives: This can irritate your skin and cause more hives.

  • Carry an emergency kit: Ask your caregiver if you need to carry an emergency kit in case you have a severe allergic reaction. The kit has a medicine called epinephrine. You can give it to yourself as a shot if you have a severe allergic reaction. Your caregiver will teach you and your family when and how to give epinephrine shots. Always carry your anaphylaxis kit with you. Check the expiration date on the kit every month and replace it before it expires.

  • Wear loose clothing: Tight clothes may irritate your skin and cause more hives.

  • Keep a diary: Write down everything you eat, drink, or apply to your skin for 3 weeks. Write down stressful events. Write down what you were doing right before your hives started.

  • Manage stress: Stress may trigger hives, or make them worse. Learn new ways to relax, such as deep breathing.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • Your skin still itches 24 hours after you take your medicine.

  • You still have hives after 7 days.

  • Your joints are painful and swollen.

  • You used your emergency kit.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek immediate help if:

  • You are dizzy.

  • Your stomach is upset, or you vomit.

  • Your mouth tingles.

  • You have trouble swallowing or breathing because your lips, tongue, or throat are swollen.

  • Your heart is beating faster than it normally does.

  • You feel like you are going to faint.

  • You have cramping or severe pain in your abdomen.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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