Allergy Hives / Urticaria: Causes & Treatment in Denver
Whether your hives are triggered by pollen, bug bites, or dust mites, our experts at Advanced ENT & Allergy Center will work with you to develop an effective treatment plan. Book a consultation with our team today, and take the first step towards a life without hives.
Can Allergies Cause Hives?
Hives, also known as urticaria, are usually caused by allergic reactions. They’re very common, with about 20% of people experiencing hives during their lifetime.
When your body comes into contact with allergens like pollen, eggs, or animal dander, it produces a chemical called histamine. In turn, histamine triggers an allergic reaction, resulting in swelling, skin rash, and painful raised welts. In severe cases, you might experience dizziness, nausea, and trouble breathing.
These bumps on your skin — also called wheals or welts — can occur anywhere on your body. Unlike bug bites, they can change shape, disappear and reappear, and range in size from small bumps to large blotches.
To distinguish hives from other types of rashes or insect stings, try placing light pressure on the skin around the red bumps. If the welts turn white in the center, you’re probably dealing with allergic hives.
Keep an eye out for these symptoms:
- Swelling and inflammation of the skin
- Angioedema (swelling underneath the skin)
- Raised bumps (can be red or skin-colored)
- Trouble breathing
A severe allergic reaction can result in anaphylaxis. If your hives are accompanied by nausea, dizziness, severe swelling, and difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition, so prompt treatment is crucial.
Usually, hives aren’t life-threatening — but they can still be a frustrating and painful condition. Thankfully, with a strong treatment plan from our team at Advanced ENT, you can find relief from the symptoms of allergic hives.
What Are Hives?
Hives go by many names. You might hear them described as wheals, welts, blotches, or bumps. A doctor could refer to hives as physical urticaria or solar urticaria, depending on the cause — but don’t worry, each word refers to the same condition.
What Do Hives Look Like?
Usually, hives are raised, itchy bumps on your skin. Often, hives are red, but they can be skin-colored as well. Hives come in all shapes and sizes: they can be small and round, ring-shaped, or large and uneven.
Most hives turn white when pressed, which is a great way to differentiate them from bug bites and other types of rash.
How Do Hives Behave?
Hives rarely stay the same throughout the course of an outbreak. They can change shape, disappear and reappear, or band together to create a larger, raised area. Individual hives usually last only a few hours, but chronic urticaria can last for days, weeks, or even years.
Unlike bug bites, hives can develop anywhere on the body. If hives start to form around your throat or tongue, call 911 or seek medical attention immediately.
Triggers for Hives Caused by Allergies
Hives can be caused by temperature changes, viral infections, or simply too much stress — but the most common cause of hives is an allergic reaction.
Here are some typical triggers to look out for:
- Insect stings or bites
- Exposure to hay
- Animal dander
- Plants, especially poison oak and poison ivy
- Foods, especially tree nuts, eggs, and shellfish
- Medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, penicillin, sulfa, etc.)
Urticaria is a complex condition, with lots of potential causes. Though allergic hives are the most common kind, sunlight, exercise, and illness can also trigger an outbreak of urticaria.
An experienced ENT specialist can determine the root cause of your hives. Our team at Advanced ENT & Allergy Center will conduct a quick and easy allergy test, then put together a treatment plan to help alleviate your symptoms.
Types of Allergy-Induced Hives
There are two types of allergy-induced hives: acute hives and chronic hives. Both types can occur without a connection to allergies, but they’re usually caused by allergens.
Acute Hives (Acute Urticaria)
Acute hives last less than six weeks, often fading and reappearing during this time. In most cases, acute hives are induced by allergies or other sensitivities.
Frequent causes of acute hives include infections, insect bites, certain foods, and some medications. If you develop hives after consuming nuts (especially tree nuts), shellfish, chocolate, eggs, or milk, your urticaria is probably tied to a food allergy.
Many medications can give rise to hives, but the three big ones to keep in mind are antibiotics, cancer drugs, and ibuprofen. Tell your ENT specialist if you experience a hive outbreak after taking your medication — this information can be helpful when your doctor is investigating the root cause.
Chronic Hives (Chronic Urticaria)
If a hive outbreak lasts for more than six weeks, it’s classified as chronic. Chronic hives can persist for months or years, and they usually take longer to diagnose and treat.
An allergy test can indicate whether your chronic hives are related to allergens. If they’re unrelated, it’ll take extra work to isolate the cause of your urticaria.
Chronic hives have many potential causes:
- Thyroid disease
- Autoimmune issues
- Liver problems
- Celiac disease
- Type 1 diabetes
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How to Treat Allergy-Induced Hives
Before a doctor can recommend a treatment plan, they need to find the underlying cause of the welts. Let’s take a look at some potential treatments, organized by the trigger of your hives.
If specific allergies such as hay, pollen, or pet dander are responsible for your hives and itching symptoms, the first step will be to treat your allergies. Proper treatment can reduce and even eliminate the symptoms of urticaria.
Antihistamine oral medication can relieve symptoms for a short time. You can buy these over-the-counter or obtain a prescription from a doctor.
Allergy shots are another helpful treatment option — they provide long-term relief from allergic reactions, including hives, blotches, and raised welts. On the downside, allergy shots require monthly office visits and can be uncomfortable for patients who are aversive to needles.
Allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy, are just as effective as allergy shots but can be done conveniently from home. A few allergy drops under the tongue each day will keep your allergies in check and prevent new ones from appearing.
Insect Bites and Stings
If your hives are being caused by an insect bite or sting, you should take an antihistamine to reduce swelling and itching. Then, place a cold compress against the affected area and apply an anti-itch ointment like hydrocortisone cream to help soothe the skin. Cool compresses and anti-itch creams are both helpful for treating urticaria and angioedema.
In severe cases, you might notice swelling of the throat or mouth, resulting in difficulty breathing. This reaction, called anaphylaxis, requires immediate treatment with an epinephrine injection pen.
If you find that your hives develop after you take a specific medication, you’ll need to avoid that medicine until you can build a different treatment plan with your doctor. Medications that commonly cause hives include aspirin, ibuprofen, sulfa, and penicillin.
To help your doctor isolate the root cause of your reaction, be sure to note any medication allergies when you receive care.
Though hives are usually caused by an allergic reaction, there are some simpler explanations of hives to be aware of. Heat, cold, sunlight, or pressure on your skin can trigger an outbreak of hives.
If excessive pressure is the cause of your hives, avoid tight-fitting clothing that could irritate your skin. Hives from cold air can be combated by bundling up in warm clothing and wearing a scarf around your nose and mouth. If heat and sunlight are triggers for you, you should wear protective clothing, glasses, hats, and sunblock to shield your skin from UV rays.
In rare cases, a serious illness could be responsible for your hives. An ENT specialist can identify the cause of your condition and create a treatment plan to meet your unique needs.
How to Prevent Hives
Antihistamines, allergy shots, and allergy drops can be effective for treating hives — but preventing an outbreak in the first place is one of the best ways to manage allergic hives.
To stop hives before they begin, you’ll need to diligently avoid the trigger of your hives. If your hives are caused by an allergen, you might have to avoid pollen, pet dander, or specific medications to keep your reaction in check.
No matter the cause of your hives, avoid tight clothing and humid climates if you’ve recently had an outbreak. Friction from clothing can irritate your skin, which might worsen the reaction, and humid air will make your outbreak even more uncomfortable.
Find Relief From Hives With Help From Our Team
At Advanced ENT & Allergy Center, we believe that nobody should suffer from itchy, painful hives. Our experts will uncover the cause of your hives, then work with you to develop an effective treatment plan. That way, you can live life to the fullest, without stressing about your next outbreak.
We do our best to make you feel as comfortable as possible, by:
- Treating you with care and respect.
- Taking time to find a solution that works for you.
- Answering all of your questions completely.
- Help you find the right treatment for your insurance plan.
If you’re ready to find lasting relief from your hives, book an online or in-person consultation today.