Hives – sometimes also called hives – are rashes that give rise to strongly itchy and raised rashes. But what causes them, and is there anything you can do to treat them?
If your skin is very itchy and you get raised rashes that quickly move over the body, you may have hives, urticaria or – as it is sometimes called – hives.
The first sign of hives is often intense itching that can cause a burning sensation. The rash may have a bright red color, or the same color as the skin. It is also common for them to be paler in the middle. The size can vary from only a few centimeters to large contiguous areas.
Distinctive for hives is that they quickly change shape and location, and then disappear without leaving marks behind. Hives usually go away on their own within a few days, although it is common for them to come and go several times for about a week.
Why do you get hives?
Hives can be triggered by a number of different factors. What happens in the body is that histamine – a substance that causes itching – is released in the skin.
The care guide lists three different types of hives: allergic hives, non-allergic hives, and physical hives. Below we take a look at the underlying causes of the different types of hives.
Allergic hives are almost always caused by eating or drinking something that you are allergic to. Another cause could be an allergy to bee or wasp stings, medicines or chemicals in, for example, skin care, detergents or wearing new, unwashed clothes.
In exceptional cases, hives are the beginning of a serious allergic reaction – then you can suffer from vomiting, swelling of the airways and breathing difficulties.
Hives that are not related to allergies can be triggered by infections or things that contain aspirin, such as strawberries, lingonberries and painkillers. Certain foods can sometimes worsen the symptoms.
Physical hives – that is, hives that are caused by something in the environment – are more uncommon. Here, the triggering factor can be:
- Pressure against the body part in question, caused by, for example, tight clothes, belts or the like.
- Cold and wind.
- Heat caused by, for example, bathing, fever or vigorous physical exertion.
- Sunlight – some medicines can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Hives: Treatments to perform at home
Most of the time you can treat hives yourself – see though “Hives: Then you should seek medical attention“ below if you are unsure whether you should seek care or not!
Here are some things you can try at home to get rid of the discomfort:
Medications that contain antihistamines
Over-the-counter medications that contain antihistamines relieve itching and may make the rash go away. This type of medicine can be used by both adults and children – however, read the packaging to check which age limit applies to the various medicines.
A cold shower or lubricating the rash with e.g. cooling balm can relieve the discomfort.
Avoid certain foods and drinks
Reduce the risk of the rash returning by avoiding foods that can irritate the skin for about a week after you are affected. These include:
Hives: Then you should seek medical attention
If you think the rash is due to an allergy, if you get hives often or several times, or if they do not disappear within a week, you should contact a health center.
If you suddenly develop a rash that spreads quickly, or itching that is very bothersome, you should immediately contact either a health center or a on-call reception. If this does not work, you must seek care at an emergency department.
Call 112 or seek help immediately at an emergency department or nearby health center if any of the following are true:
- You find it difficult to breathe.
- You feel very ill.
- You feel very tired and lethargic.
- Your lips and tongue become swollen or numb.
- You get severe itching of the scalp that spreads to the face, nose, mouth, palms and soles of the feet.
- You get cough and asthma symptoms.
You who have allergies in the past can have emergency medicines at home. In that case, take your emergency medications before you go to the reception.
Call telephone number 1177 if you want healthcare advice. Then you can get help assessing symptoms or help with where to seek care.