Rashes are common and can indicate various conditions, such as bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, autoimmune issues, bug bites, and allergic reactions. Therefore, if you develop a rash and don’t know what’s causing it, it raises some concern. Identifying a rash as a sign of an allergic reaction is vital to finding its root cause.
What Are Hives (Urticaria)?
Hives (urticaria) is a rash characterized by itching, burning, tingling, and swelling. It appears as a rapidly expanding “wheal”, a welt or sudden itchy and swollen elevation on the skin often surrounded by redness.
Hives tend to blanch, meaning that when you press down on the rash, your red skin briefly turns white. Episodes of hives last for one to 24 hours. They’re known for rapidly developing, disappearing, and moving around to different body areas.
What Causes Hives?
There are various causes of hives. Some hives are idiopathic, with an unknown cause. There are also hive catalysts that don’t involve the immune system. Instead, these hives result from contact-based irritation.
Food triggers, like meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and flour, commonly trigger hives in children. Certain bacterial and viral infections may also present with hives. In addition, physical triggers, such as cold, heat, sun exposure, sweat, and pressure, can also result in this type of rash.
How to Prevent Hives?
You can prevent hives by avoiding medication or dietary triggers. Your doctor may recommend high-dose antihistamines to treat episodes. In cases of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), they may recommend an EpiPen.
When Should I See a Doctor for a Rash?
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) offers a series of guidelines for determining when a rash may be serious and need medical attention. These guidelines include symptoms like full-body rash, fever, sudden onset, and rapid spread. You should also seek immediate medical attention if your rash blisters, develops open sores, becomes painful, or appears infected (i.e. has swelling, crusting, pain, or warmth). These signs indicate that the rash may be an allergic reaction or infection, which can become serious rather quickly.
If you have repeated episodes of hives, or are unable to determine the trigger, schedule an appointment with a trained allergy specialist. They can determine the source of your hives and create a plan to prevent and treat future episodes.
If dizziness, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the tongue, lips, and face accompany your hives, you may be experiencing a severe allergic reaction. Seek emergency medical attention.
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