Hives, also called urticaria (yer ti CARE ee uh), are red, itchy, raised bumps or welts on the skin.

They can be caused by:

  • An allergic reaction
  • A physical trigger, such as cold, water, or pressure
  • A medical condition, such as an infection or autoimmune disease

They may be small, like mosquito bites, or many inches wide. Hives can appear alone, in a group or can connect with each other to cover bigger areas. Just as they vary in color, hives come in many shapes. Some appear as tiny spots or blotches. They can be made worse by scratching.

About 1 out of every 5 people has hives at some time in his or her life. If you continue to get hives daily or almost every day for six weeks or longer, you have chronic hives. The most effective treatment depends on the type of hives you have and your medical history.

A complete medical exam can help rule out possible causes, such as an infection or medication, which could be causing your hives. It’s also possible for a disease, such as a thyroid condition, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes to cause hives. If signs indicate that this may be the cause, medical testing can find or rule out these causes.

Call Dr. Monique S. Cohn at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center immediately if hives appear after you have started taking a new medication or after you have been stung by an insect. Get emergency treatment if hives occur with wheezing, dizziness, chest tightness, breathing difficulties or swelling of the tongue, lips or face.

Keep track of flare-ups

While it’s not always possible to find the cause, keeping track of your flare-ups may help you figure out what triggers your hives. Use a symptom journal to make note of whether you’ve encountered any triggers before an outbreak. It can be easy to forget details about what your symptoms have been like recently when speaking to Dr. Cohn. Bringing photographs to your appointment can also be very helpful, not only because hives may disappear by the time a patient can get an appointment, but also because they could change due to scratching or other treatments.

Relieve the itch at home

Itch is common in people who have chronic hives. Here are some ways to get temporary relief:

  • Avoid overheating.
  • Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothes.
  • Apply a cold compress, such as ice cubes wrapped in a washcloth, to the itchy skin several times a day—unless cold triggers your hives.
  • Do not take hot baths or showers.
  • Use anti-itch medication that you can buy without a prescription, such as an antihistamine or calamine lotion.
  • Prevent dry skin by using a fragrance-free moisturizer several times a day.
  • Follow the treatment plan Dr. Cohn creates for you. For chronic hives, there are a number of medications that can be prescribed.

Most simple cases of hives fade quickly, and the affected skin returns to normal within hours. Even when you have episodes that recur over several weeks, without a known cause, they often stop coming back after a few months. Consult Dr. Cohn at 330-425-7600 if hives persist for several days or if itching interferes with your ability to sleep or perform normal daily activities.