When Do You Visit the Doctor for Hives?

Hives are itchy patches of skin that turn into swollen, itchy welts. They can vary in size. Chronic hives are defined as hives that last for more than six weeks and return over the course of months or years. The cause of chronic hives is often unknown. 

These welts are caused by some reaction that irritates the skin, with the welts fading and reappearing as the reaction runs its course. They’re itchy and can be extremely uncomfortable, hindering daily activities and making it difficult to sleep. Many patients see results by taking an antihistamine (anti-itch medication). 

Symptoms of hives include batches of welts that can appear anywhere on the body, fade at random, and have variations in color, shape, and size. They can also be accompanied by swelling under the eyes and in the face, which causes discomfort but should not cause difficulty breathing.

Hives can be caused by pet dander, pollen, or food allergies; however, triggers for chronic hives can be harder to determine since the hives come and go over the course of a long period of time. Some common causes of chronic hives can be heat, stress, or exercise. It’s time to see a dermatologist if you have severe hives or hives that have lasted for several days without going away and have not been previously diagnosed. 

While hives could accompany an allergic reaction, chronic hives do not cause anaphylaxis. Therefore, if you’re experiencing difficulty breathing, you should immediately seek emergency medical care. At that point, hives are a symptom and not the cause. This would be the case in a severe reaction to a bee sting. 

To avoid hives, try to determine your triggers and avoid them. Wear loose-fitting clothing and protect your skin from the sun. For temporary treatment, try antihistamines or apply a cool compress on the affected area for itch relief. Depending on the severity of symptoms, your dermatologist might recommend other medications for treatment, like a corticosteroid or an immune system suppressant.

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