Allergy Hives: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment in Denver
No one should suffer from itchy, raised hives and welts. Our ENT specialists can find out if allergies are the true cause of your hives and determine exactly what triggers them. We’ll help you find the best treatment plan to relieve your symptoms, so you can return to a life without hives.
Can Allergies Cause Hives?
The red, swollen bumps we know as hives, or urticaria, are a result of your body’s reaction to a certain stimulus – usually an allergic reaction. Hives are very common, with about 20% of people experiencing hives at some point in their life. When your body or skin is exposed to an irritant, such as a food, insect sting, or medications you are allergic to, it releases a chemical called histamine. The histamine released can sometimes cause red and itchy welts that may affect a small or large part of the body.
Hives often resemble bug bites, but unlike bug bites they can occur anywhere on the body, change shape, disappear and reappear, or range in size from small bumps to large blotches. These bumps, also called wheals or welts, are usually raised and will turn white in the center when pressed. This is called blanching and is one way to distinguish these welts from other bug bites or rashes.
If you are experiencing hives caused by allergies, symptoms can include:
- Red or skin-colored raised bumps
- Trouble breathing in severe cases
Triggers for Hives Caused by Allergies
Hives can seem to come on from nothing, but there is always a trigger of some kind causing these itchy welts to appear. For some, this trigger is external or physical, such as heat, cold and exercise, while for others the trigger is your body’s response to an allergen.
The most common allergies that can trigger hives are:
- Insect stings or bites
- Pet Dander
- Foods – nuts, eggs and shellfish especially
- Plants – poison oak and poison ivy in particular
- Medications – especially aspirin, ibuprofen, and antibiotics like penicillin and sulfa
The body’s reaction to other stimuli can also cause urticaria. Bacterial and viral infections can both lead to hives as a symptom, as can environmental factors like cold, heat, exercise and sun exposure. The best way to treat your hives will depend on the root cause of the urticaria. An experienced ENT specialist will be able to determine if your allergies are the source of your hives with a fast and simple allergy test either in the office or from home.
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Types of Hives Caused by Allergies
There are two different types of hives which may be connected to allergies – acute hives and chronic hives.
Acute hives are commonly caused by allergies or sensitivities. These hives last less than six weeks, while they may fade and reappear throughout this time. Acute hives are often caused by allergies to foods, most commonly nuts, shellfish, chocolate, eggs, milks, and certain preservatives. They can also be caused by sensitivities to specific medications, infections or by insect stings and bites.
If hives last for more than six weeks, they are likely chronic hives. Allergies may still be the source of these hives if a patient is not properly examined and diagnosed, but if this is ruled out then it may take more work to determine the cause of your chronic hives. Certain conditions such as thyroid disease, hepatitis, autoimmune issues, or liver problems can sometimes cause hives to appear. A doctor will be able to guide you towards specific tests to determine if your chronic hives are a symptom of a more serious illness.
Both acute and chronic hives have the potential to be connected to allergies. A specialized ENT doctor can not only diagnose and categorize your hives, but they can determine exactly what allergies may be triggering the urticaria and develop a personal treatment plan.
How to Treat Allergy-Induced Hives
In order to decide the best treatment plan for your hives, a doctor first must determine the underlying cause of the welts. Once an ENT specialist discovers the root cause of your hives, they may recommend some of the following treatments.
If specific allergies such as hay, pollen, or pet dander are responsible for your hives and itching symptoms, treating these allergies can reduce or eliminate your hives entirely. Antihistamine oral medication can be helpful to relieve symptoms for a short time. Allergy shots are effective at treating allergies and symptoms, including urticaria, but they require monthly office visits and uncomfortable encounters with needles. Allergy drops, also called sublingual immunotherapy, are just as effective as allergy shots but can be done quickly and easily at home. Just a few drops under the tongue each day treats your allergies and even keeps new allergies from developing.
Insect Bites and Stings
If an insect bite or sting is causing your hives, an antihistamine may also be recommended to reduce swelling and itching, along with a cold compress or anti-itch ointment like hydrocortisone cream to help soothe the skin. If an anaphylactic reaction occurs with your hives, meaning swelling of the throat or mouth restricts breathing airways, you will need to use an epinephrine injection pen (adrenaline) and see an emergency room right away for treatment.
You may need to avoid certain medications if this is determined to be the cause of your hives. Medications that can cause urticaria as a reaction are also very common, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, sulfa and penicillin, so you will need to be vigilant to avoid these medicines. Always be sure to note a medication allergy in any medical documentation and mention the allergy whenever receiving medical care.
If it is discovered that your hives are being caused by a physical exposure to heat, cold, sun or pressure, you can take precautions to limit your exposure yourself and avoid triggering the hives as a result. If your skin gets hives from pressure, avoid tight or rubbing clothing. If exposure to cold air is your trigger, bundle up with warm clothing when going outside and be sure to cover your nose and mouth with a scarf. If heat or sun cause hives for you, a doctor will recommend always wearing protective clothing, glasses, hats, and sunblock.
If a more serious condition or illness is behind your hives, treatments will vary widely. If a specialized ENT doctor determines your allergies are not to blame for chronic hives, you may need to work with your doctor to determine next steps and potential treatments as a diagnosis emerges.
Get Rid of Your Hives with Help from Experts
Itchy, raised hives are frustrating for so many, especially when they seem to come and go as they please. Find out the true triggers for your hives now and receive a personal treatment plan that targets the source of the issue. You can get back to life without hives, and our experts can help.