Open hours: 7:15 AM-5:00 PM Mon-Fri

A woman scratching at the hives appearing on her right shoulderHave you ever had breakout of swollen, pale red bumps on the skin that appear suddenly? Did they itch or maybe burn just a bit?

You probably had a breakout of hives. Hives are one of those skin conditions that can be a minor temporary thing, or a really serious problem. While they generally fade quickly, they can become more severe. Here’s some info from the team at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery about hives.

What are hives?

Hives, clinically known as urticaria, is an outbreak of red bumps that are either a result of the body reacting to certain allergens, or for unknown reasons. The red bumps are itchy and may burn or sting. In more severe cases, the breakout can make the person wheeze or have a feeling of lightheadedness.

What causes hives?

Hives are the body’s reaction to an allergen found in food, medications, or infections. As soon as the allergic reaction occurs, the body releases histamines into the blood. Although the point of the histamine release is defense against outside intruders into the body, when the release is excessive it leads to swelling and itching on the skin, hives.

Hives can be a reaction to medication, pollen, animal dander, sunlight exposure, insect stings, and certain chemicals found in food. An outbreak can also be a reaction to emotional stress and excessive exercise.

What are the symptoms?

These are the symptoms a person has with hives:

  • Itching on the skin
  • Appearance of skin-colored welts (also called wheals) that look swollen and have clearly defined borders
  • Growth of the wheals, spreading, and clumping with other wheals to form larger areas of raised skin
  • Disappearance and reappearance of wheals within a matter of minutes to hours
  • Blanching of the wheal (the patch on the skin) when the center is pressed

How we treat hives at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery

One of our dermatologists first performs a physical exam to determine if the patient has hives. If it is the reaction to an allergen, testing may be done to determine the allergic source.

Otherwise, in mild cases these actions can help:

  • Take an antihistamine
  • Avoid exposing your skin to hot temperatures in showers, baths, or hot tubs
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing
  • Avoid excessive scratching or scrubbing during baths

If the outbreak is so severe that the person is having difficulty breathing or swallowing, this becomes an emergency situation. A shot of epinephrine or steroids can provide immediate relief.

Have other questions about hives or other skin conditions? Call us at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, (503) 297-3440.