Hives, also known as urticaria, are itchy, raised welts that are found on the skin. They are usually red, pink, or flesh-colored, and sometimes they sting or hurt. In most cases, hives are caused by an allergic reaction to a medication or food or a reaction to an irritant in the environment. In many cases, hives are an acute (temporary) problem that may be alleviated with allergy medications. Most rashes go away on their own. However, chronic (ongoing) cases, as well as hives accompanied by a severe allergic reaction, are larger medical concerns. Hives are usually caused by an allergic reaction to something that you have encountered or swallowed. When you have an allergic reaction, your body begins to release histamines into your blood. Histamines are chemicals your body produces in an attempt to defend itself against infection and other outside intruders. Unfortunately, in some people, the histamines can cause swelling, itching, and many of the symptoms that are experienced with hives. In terms of allergens, hives can be caused by factors such as pollen, medications, food, animal dander, and insect bites. Hives might also be caused by circumstances besides allergies. It’s not uncommon for people to experience hives as the result of stress, tight clothes, exercise, illnesses, or infections. It’s also possible to develop hives as the result of excessive exposure to hot or cold temperatures or from irritation due to excessive sweating. As there are several potential triggers, many times the actual cause of hives cannot be determined. The most noticeable symptom associated with hives is the welts that appear on the skin. Welts may be red, but can also be the same color as your skin. They can be small and round, ring-shaped, or large and of random shape. Hives are itchy, and they tend to appear in batches on the affected part of the body. They can grow larger, change shape, and spread. Hives may disappear or reappear over the course of the outbreak. Individual hives can last anywhere from half an hour to a day. Hives may turn white when pressed. Sometimes the hives may change shape or form together and create a larger, raised area. Hives can occur in a variety of places on the body. Call 911 or seek medical attention immediately if you develop a hive outbreak around your throat or on your tongue or have trouble breathing along with hives.
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