Hives can appear when you least expect them and vary significantly from person to person. In some cases, they appear small, red, and localized but can also become large, itchy, and widespread.
Approximately 20% of people experience hives at least once, and 1-3% live with chronic hives indefinitely. The critical thing to understand is that they develop when your body releases histamines and other chemicals because of an allergic reaction. And, like allergies in general, sometimes hives can indicate a serious problem.
Our Advanced Allergy & Asthma experts can help identify the cause of your hives and outline an effective management strategy. However, it’s essential to understand when hives require immediate medical attention.
Why people get hives
As mentioned above, hives develop when your system has an allergic reaction. And like widespread allergies, such as hay fever, developing hives is a common problem.
Causes of hives often include:
- Insect bites or stings
- Animal dander
- Certain medications
- Foods like shellfish, eggs, milk, and nuts
However, they can also occur because of less obvious things, like certain infections and illnesses, exercise or excessive perspiration, extreme temperatures, and even emotional stress. You can even experience hives without a known reason.
And once a welt appears, you can have one or several, and they can disappear only to reappear somewhere else entirely.
When hives are cause for concern
Hives can trigger a variety of symptoms, such as:
- Red- or skin-colored welts on the skin
- Welts with a center that pales when pressed
- Welts that change shapes, disappear, and reappear within minutes, hours, days, months, or years
- Swelling under the skin causes a puffy appearance
All of these symptoms can cause significant discomfort. But there is another potential issue that can occur with hives — painful swelling of the lips, eyes, face, and inside of the throat.
These symptoms can indicate anaphylaxis, a life-threatening problem that develops because of a whole-body allergic reaction to something. Not only does it cause difficulty breathing, but it can also stop your heartbeat.
You need emergency care immediately when you have a severe allergic reaction that causes anaphylaxis.
Living with hives
In most cases, hives that indicate a life-threatening problem develop within up to 30 minutes of exposure to an allergen. However, in rare cases, it can take several hours to arise.
Our team recommends seeking emergency care for hives with these symptoms:
- Widespread skin reactions
- Swelling in the face, mouth, or throat
- Weakened for rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Lightheadedness, fainting, or dizziness
If you have ongoing issues with hives or learn you have a severe allergic reaction, our team can help. This process often involves identifying your triggers, lifestyle modifications to avoid them, and medications or immunotherapy to reactions.
When you have a severe or life-threatening allergy, you must always carry an epinephrine auto injector.
Do you have hives? Contact Advanced Allergy & Asthma to schedule a consultation with our experienced allergists in Ogden, Utah, today.