Hives (urticaria) is a harmless type of rash or skin allergy that is usually caused by an allergy. The rash consists of circular, raised welts on the skin that are usually itchy and occur in batches. Hives can vary in size, from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. Hives usually affects the throat, arms, legs, and trunk.

What is it?

Hives (urticaria) is a type of rash characterised by circular welts of reddened and itching skin. The welts can vary in size, from relatively small to as large as a dinner plate. The condition can afflict any part of the body, but is common to the trunk, throat, arms and legs. The welts generally rise in clusters, with one cluster waxing as another wanes. This type of skin rash is an allergy, which means the immune system reacts to a substance as if it were toxic. Hives can be triggered by a number of different factors, including medications, insect bites and certain foods.

What causes it?

The most common skin allergy triggers that can cause hives include:

  • Medication such as antibiotics, codeine, penicillin, sulfar, anticonvulsant drugs, phenobarbital, and aspirin.
  • Foods like shellfish, nuts, tomatoes, soy, chocolate, and berries.
  • Pollen.
  • Cat dander.
  • Insect bites such as bee and wasp stings.
  • Other causes of hives include: emotional stress, bacterial – viral – fungal infections, hepatitis B, parasitic worms, food additives, plants, cold temperatures, heat, sweating, and dermatographism (irritation from pressure or tight fitting clothes).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of hives are caused by histamine released from mast cells that exist deep within the skin. Common symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset.
  • Red or skin colored welts that resemble mosquito bites.
  • Welts change quickly; size, shape, & location
  • Itching.
  • Welts commonly last about 24 hours.
  • Angioedema – swelling of lips, face, and tongue.

Are there any natural therapies?

  • To relieve itching, apply a soothing lotion or cream such as chickweed or nettle, to the area – a mild case of hives will often disappear after a few hours.
  • High doses of vitamin C may reduce severity of symptoms of allergic reations.
  • Vitamin B complex is indicated to help your body cope with stress
  • Nettle tea – when cool, bathe itchy area.

What else can I do?

Attempting to pinpoint the exact cause of your allergy is the best remedy. By firstly determining the cause, and then avoiding this trigger; the allergic reaction to this can be stopped.