Hives which are also known as urticaria, welts, weals or nettle rash will appear as a red, raised, itchy skin rash. This condition is often triggered by an allergen which is a harmless substance capable of triggering a response. The response which begins in the immune system results in an allergic reaction.
Allergens are everywhere!!! They are commonly found in dust mites, pets, pollen, insects, ticks, moulds, foods and even some medications. Hives can affect any part of the body, although they commonly affect areas such as the torso, throat, arms and legs. This visible rash generally appears in clusters with one cluster worsening as another improves.
The weals can vary in size from relatively small to large (sometimes as large as a dinner plate). They may be circular, oval or annular in their shape. Most of the time the rash disappears within a few hours, only to be replaced by a new one elsewhere on the skin.
Weals that persist in exactly the same spot for more than 24 hours may indicate a different disorder known as urticarial vasculitis.
Hives can be both acute and chronic. If the condition is acute, the weals may come and go for a few days or weeks. It is very unlikely for them to persist for more than five weeks.
It is less common to have chronic hives which is a serious condition where the weals come and go for months and sometimes even years.
There are several common factors that could cause a hive eruption. Some of these include respiratory infections, contact with animals or plants, allergic reactions to foods or medication and sometimes, insect stings, heat or cold, stress, food additives or preservatives. There are also certain underlying conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rubella, hepatitis and emotional stress which can lead to an outbreak of hives. Having said this, there is a very high percentage of cases where the cause is unknown.
Hives is not a contagious condition however there is an element of discomfort experienced by the patient such as itching. Compulsive itching and scratching of the skin can result in an open lesion.
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