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Hives are a skin affliction frequently caused by allergies, infections and climate temperature changes. They are not a disease, but rather a reaction to an irritant. These types of reactions typically effect 15 to 24 percent of the population and result in swollen, itchy red bumps on the skin. In some cases, these can form large lesions covering an extensive portion of the body.

Not only are hives uncomfortable, but they can make those who suffer feel self-conscious when covered in unsightly bumps, forcing them to alter their daily lives until it clears up. Hives can occur on any part of the body, but are more frequently seen on the head and neck, making them harder to disguise when an outbreak occurs.

While hives are a nuisance for most, they can be deadly to some, especially if swelling in the upper respiratory tract occurs. This can lead to obstruction of the airway, even causing an individual to stop breathing.

Acute cases of hives—those that last less than six weeks—are commonly caused by an allergy to food, drugs, insect stings, latex or environmental stimulants like animals or mold. The most common food allergens include nuts, dairy, egg and fish. Hives can also be caused by an infection, including viral, mycoplasma, fungal and parasites.

A physical change in the environment can also cause hives, including a change in pressure, cold weather, exposure to sunlight and even heat, making dealing with the changing seasons difficult. This can mean a reaction when exposed to a change in environment—such as sun exposure to the skin, or even recovering from a change in environment, such as warming up skin after being outside in the cold.

Some suffer far worse, experiencing hive outbreaks for longer than six weeks. Those who do have chronic urticarial, and the causes differ from acute urticaria. Common causes include autoimmune diseases, physical urticaria, and chronic infections including dental abscess, chronic sinusitis, and chronic parasitic infections.

Individuals need not suffer from unsightly and uncomfortable hives. The board certified allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists specialize in treatment of hives and help identify the type and cause of hives and can develop a plan. At an appointment with an allergist, the doctor can perform skin testing or lab work, when necessary, to determine the appropriate treatment options.

The best way to treat hives is to identify the cause and what causes them and, when possible, to avoid that irritant. Another standard option is the use of antihistamines, or, in cases of chronic urticarial, an injectable prescription, both of which the allergists can help determine. In doing so, they can get individuals back to their lives, hive free.

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To schedule a visit with the board certified allergists/immunologists of A&AS at one of the eight convenient locations, call 1-800-86COUGH, extension 2.

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