Allergic skin hives or urticaria, are red, itchy bumps near the surface of the skin. Like many other allergies, they are the result of overproduction of histamine and any reaction can be caused by a wide variety of things.
Causes of Skin Hives
In many cases, skin hives are the consequence of food allergies. Eggs, peanuts, shellfish, milk and other foods can cause hives. The bumps are not generally painful but the itchiness is uncomfortable and the hives can become worse by scratching.
They may also be the result of drug sensitivity. Penicillin shots and antibiotics may produce them. Blood pressure control medicine can cause hives. But even simple aspirin or ibuprofen are the culprit among some allergy sufferers.
In still other patients, airborne or contact allergens like pollen and animal dander can produce the characteristic red swellings. Insect stings, such as those of bees and wasps, typically produce breathing difficulty for those that suffer from insect venom allergies. However, urticaria is far from unknown in this case, as well.
In short, any allergen that produces more common allergy symptoms can also produce hives. Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyelid membrane) and allergic rhinitis or hay fever (an inflammation of the nasal membranes) is more typical. However, skin hives are similar in that they result from overproduction of histamine and other cytokines that produce swelling.
Skin Hives Treatment
Prevention is always the best option, when possible. Beyond keeping the environment relatively free of allergens and foregoing certain foods, though, there is no cure, only symptom treatments.
Application of a cold compress can provide relief from the itching and swelling. A cool shower may bring only temporary relief, but sometimes 'temporary' is long enough. Avoid scratching and wear clothing that does not irritate the area further.
Non-prescription antihistamine medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Claritin (loratadine) can help reduce skin hives. The latter has the added benefit that it does not typically cause drowsiness.
Prescription medications are sometimes just a stronger dose of the same substances. But some medicines contain different compounds. Atarax (hydroxyzine) and Allegra (fexofenadine) are two frequently prescribed alternatives. In more severe cases, physicians may suggest an oral corticosteroid such as prednisone.
Skin Hives Caused by Allergies
Since there are many conditions that can produce red, swollen bumps (such as acne, for example) it is important to know when you have hives. Only a professional diagnosis can produce a definitive answer but there are common things to look for.
Allergies tend to run in families, though individuals do not always have the same sensitivity in kind or degree. Also, learn to distinguish between urticaria and contact dermatitis from poison ivy. The latter is the result of contact with the plant's oil and it spreads by moving the oil over the skin. Skin hives emanate from the inside.
For those who are especially sensitive, it can be beneficial to have an EpiPen or similar device on hand. These allow the self-administration of a controlled dose of epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis.