Hives, called urticaria, are evidence of an allergic reaction of the skin. The hives develop suddenly after a person has been in contact with a substance that has triggered the allergic reaction. Hives can occur at any age. While people who get hives often had them periodically throughout their lives, an adult can also experience hives for the first time. What do hives look like?
Hives appear as red whelts, or raised areas, on the skin. Hives can also appear as flat-topped bumps similar to a mosquito bite. These flat-topped bumps are called wheals. A person can have one or both of these types of hive rashes. Hives can cause extreme itchiness.
The hives can cover a relatively small area such as a patch of skin on the arms or hands. Hives can also cover larger areas such as someone’s torso or almost his entire body. In some cases, hives can become dangerous if the hives occur in a person’s mouth and throat. Hives in the throat are often caused by an allergic reaction to something eaten.
If the person develops hives in the throat, the person may begin to have difficulty breathing. Other allergic reactions can also cause difficulty breathing. Anaphylaxis is a severe physical reaction to an allergy. The person experiencing anaphylaxis may go into shock and have difficulty breathing.
Histamine leaked from cells in the skin is the cause of hives. The cells that leak histamine are called mast cells. Mast cells leak histamine from either an allergic reaction or from clothes or other objects rubbing against the skin. Hives from an allergic reaction are commonly referred to as ordinary hives. Hives that are caused by friction against the skin are called physical hives.
Hives can be caused by a reaction to medication. Hives often resolve on their own without causing any problems other than itchiness. Sometimes, people develop what is called chronic hives which is an outbreak of hives that can last for months or even years.
The common treatment for hives is antihistamine medication like Benadryl. The antihistamine counteracts the histamine that has leaked from the mast cells and caused the hives. The doctor may prescribe medication if a person is prone to hives. If the person has any difficulty breathing, this should be treated as a medical emergency. For severe hive symptoms, the physician may administer a steroid injection, other medication, or other treatment.