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Urticaria also known as Hives

What is Urticaria?

Urticaria is an eruption of red swollen bumps that are itchy. It appears suddenly as a reaction to certain allergens. Bumps can appear anywhere on the body and vary in size from a small bump to a large area known as plaque. They can last for hours or up to 48 hours before fading. Urticaria or hives can be accompanied by angioedema. Angioedema is characterized by a deep swelling of soft tissues as hands, feet, eyes, ears and lips sometimes. Rarely, angioedema can affect the throat and blocks the airways causing breathing difficulties. Kids are often affected by this condition.

What causes urticaria and angioedema?

Urticaria occurs when the body is in contact with allergens. The body reacts by releasing histamine and other chemical messengers. These substances cause the blood vessels to open up and become leaky which creates swelling and itchy sensation.

Histamines are released for many different reasons:

  • Food allergies such as allergies to nuts, eggs, chocolate, sea food, strawberries, spices and citrus fruit. Sometimes allergies are developed to a food eaten many times before without problem.

  • Insects bites.

  • Medicine or drugs allergies as aspirin, anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, etc.

  • Skin contact with materials that create urticaria such as latex, cosmetics, plants, chemicals, etc.

  • Cold or flu can trigger urticaria.

  • Heat or sunlight exposure.

What is the treatment for urticaria?

Simple rashes do not need any medical intervention. Simple steps can be followed to ease the itchy sensation. You can follow these general guidelines:

  • A cool bath without soap can ease the itchy sensation. Pat dry and do not rub.

  • Leave the affected area exposed to air if possible.

  • Avoid scrubbing and scratching.

  • Avoid heat. Keep your child cool.

  • You can apply Calamine lotion to reduce the itches.

  • Your doctor may prescribe an anti-histamine drug in case the angioedema is severe.

  • Apply a cloth soaked with vinegar and ice on the angioedema. It usually helps to reduce the swelling.

In case your child develops fever, short breath, joint pain, swelling of the face, contact your doctor immediately. Steroid injection may be needed to reduce angioedema. It is recommended to do tests to identify the cause of allergy. If it is related to food, your child might have the same symptoms whenever he is in contact with that food. Your doctor may give you advices on how to avoid the cause and what to do in case your child develops urticaria.

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