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September 28, 2023


What is urticaria? Urticaria is more commonly known as hives, wheals, or welts. It is an immune
response that results in a skin reaction that causes raised, red, and very itchy patches on the
skin. It can range in size from a small spot to larger, more body-wide patches. It can also range
in severity from mild to severe. Besides being itchy, they can sometimes sting or burn. They
often tend to turn white when pressed (blanching). Urticaria affects roughly 20% of people at
some time in their lives. They generally last just a few hours.


The most common causes are:
- Reactions from coming in contact with something such as a plant or allergen (such as
latex, pollen, or pet dander)
- Heat or cold
- A bug bite or sting
- Foods or something else ingested
- Medications
- Blood transfusions
- Emotional or physical stress


Anyone can get hives. If you’re someone who often reacts to many types of allergens, you may
get hives frequently. Other people who don’t usually react to allergens may get hives once or a
few times in their lives. It is usually self-diagnosable and self-treatable at home. Medical testing
is usually not required unless you have chronic hives.

You should seek medical attention if the hives last longer than 24 hours after treatment, begin
to worsen, or if you continue to get them. Chronic hives should be evaluated by an allergist,
who will ask about your medical history, substances that you are exposed to at home, work, or
school, exposure to pets or other animals, and any medications you have taken recently.
Common at-home treatments include taking an antihistamine which can be over-the-counter or
prescribed. Severe episodes of urticaria may require temporary treatment with prednisone, or
similar corticosteroid medication, or an immune modulator, which can all reduce the severity of
the symptoms. If your reaction involves swelling of your tongue or lips, or you have trouble
breathing, your allergist may prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector for you to always keep on
hand. The primary goal of treatment is symptom management and to learn to avoid the triggers
that cause the urticaria reaction.

If this is your first-time getting hives, or if your hives are becoming more frequent contact your
doctor or allergist. Call us to make an appointment, Chicago Allergy & Asthma is here to help.