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Urticaria: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

By NS Desk | Diseases | Posted on :   11-Jan-2021

If you tuned into the latest Bollywood-related show on a streaming service over the weekend, you must have come across various health-related issues the ladies face, from air sickness to skin aging and a certain condition known as Urticaria.
Dr. Smriti Naswa Singh, Consultant Dermatologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund explains the definition of the condition, its causes, and treatment.


What is Urticaria?

Urticaria, commonly recognized as 'hives' is an outbreak of red and prickly bumps that suddenly appear on the skin. The reasons could be due to certain allergies, or at times for unknown reasons.

The bumps or rash may vary in size and cause severe itching it may also cause burning on the skin, causing discomfort as well as disturbing one's daily routine. The bump wheels may suddenly appear anyplace on the body - the face, hands or legs even the lips, tongue, ears, or throat.

The swelling of lips, eyelids, genitals can be painful, and swelling of the throat windpipe can cause breathlessness which is an emergency and the patient has to be rushed to the hospital. Depending on the severity of the condition, it may last for a few hours, or fade away after the reaction runs its course.

Usually, an Urticaria reaction lasts for less than 24hours and fades off only to recur at the same or other areas. If Urticaria lasts beyond 72hours, one has to find the causes beyond the skin (involving inflammation of blood vessels), called Urticarial Vasculitis.


What are its causes?

Urticaria is a type of skin allergy. An allergy means the body's hyper response to normal, common, harmless stimuli like dust, dirt, cat fur, pollen, change of weather, etc. Urticaria ensues when the body reacts to the release of histamine which is found in the body's cells or other chemicals into the bloodstream. Inflammation is caused due to histamine, and fluid accumulates under the skin eventually causing 'hives or welts'.

It is said that "anything under the sun, including the sun, can cause Urticaria". Sometimes it's very easy to find the cause when Urticaria erupts immediately after exposure to an allergen, but sometimes it takes the long history of taking in OPD, or systematic diary entries for days & weeks to pinpoint the cause.


Common Triggers of Urticaria

However, the common triggers to this reaction are:
Reaction to medication such as antibiotics or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or vaccines
Insect stings
Change in temperature or extreme temperatures
Food - shellfish, nuts, Wheat products, food additives, cow milk protein, etc.
Secondary infections
Exposure to sunlight
Pollen/ dust mites
Stress
Animal-related allergies
Chronic illness - Thyroid


Treatment of Urticaria

Hives are treated using anti-histamines, this nullifies the effect of histamine. It is to be used regularly for a few weeks, as prescribed. Chronic hives are generally treated using antihistamines or a combination of medications. To reduce the irritation caused by Urticaria, wear loose or light clothing.

Avoid scratching and aggravating the condition.
Avoid common triggers like dust, dirt, weeds, wool, sweating, dryness of skin, excessive protein in foods.
Have a bath with tepid water (neither too hot, nor too cold) with bath oil, and stay away from harsh soap detergents.
Compress the area with cold water or apply moisturizing lotion to soothe & moisten the area.
Avoid these foods that are known to trigger histamine production include fish, dairy, fish, processed foods, chocolate, Spinach & Strawberries.
It is important to seek emergency medical care if you experience trouble breathing (breathlessness), dizziness, swelling in the lips/ tongue, or tightness in the chest.

Hives & stress

Emotional stress may cause This is known as Stress-Induced Urticaria. Extreme stress at times may also be responsible for Chronic Urticaria. An example is a patient who had been Asthmatic for many years, started developing Urticaria recently she would not have urticarial bouts on days when she was engrossed in her art, the day she got back to routine work and life without the one hobby that mentally relaxes her, the Urticaria would come back.

Skin is the mirror of the internal body and mind. Hence, it is very important to find and treat the root cause (within the body and mind) to cure the skin problem. (agency)

NS Desk

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