Hives can come from many sources

Hives are an allergic reaction that may come from internal and/or external sources, and which begins as an itch that progresses to raised red bumps. This is the body’s attempt to get rid of the irritation by producing histamines, a chemical made by the immune system. More severe reactions associated with hives include anaphylaxis, or swelling of the tongue or throat.

Angioedema, a puffing of the deeper layers of skin, can also accompany hives. With angioedema the inflammation (swelling) is most prominent on the eyes and lips, and there may also be numbness. Anyone can experience hives and most cases fade in a few weeks.

Common causes of hives

Common allergens that can cause hives are nuts, milk, eggs, latex and pollen. There are also certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, anti-seizure, and chemotherapy, which are more likely to cause a reaction. Sometimes a viral infection, including the common cold, can cause hives.

Extreme changes in body temperature can also give you a rash. When we get cold our body heat is concentrated toward the center of our system, providing protection for the heart and lungs, the vital resources needed to keep us alive. On a normal day we wouldn’t notice this change except for maybe needing mittens when we leave the house. But if a person is in extreme conditions for a long period of time, the body’s temperature may drop to an unsustainable level. Hives form as an indication that the body is having trouble.

Treatments and tests for hives

Since hives are usually the body’s response to an allergen, prevention to exposure is the most effective method of treatment. Your doctor may perform blood tests or skin tests for common allergies. He or she may recommend changes in your diet or activities, and may also prescribe antihistamines, a medication that will calm the body’s allergic reaction.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.