Urticaria (Chronic Hives)

What is Urticaria (Chronic Hives)?

Chronic hives are any cases of hives, a raised eruption of the skin, that last longer than six weeks at a time. The raised skin forms a rash that can cover large sections of the body, resulting in discomfort that makes it hard to follow your usual daily routine.

While most cases of acute hives are caused by a specific irritant or illness, chronic hives often occur with no specific causes.

What are the Symptoms of Urticaria (Chronic Hives)?

  • Intense itching of the rash areas, which become more itchy as your scratching does damage to the skin
  • Swelling of the face or throat
  • Dark red marks left behind after the skin returns to normal

Urticaria (Chronic Hives) Causes

While acute hives are often caused by allergies, chronic hives tend to occur as a result of other chronic illnesses.

Causes include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Underactive or overactive thyroid
  • Intestinal parasites

However, the condition tends to come and go and can often be triggered by certain lifestyle factors. Sometimes physical or emotional stress can cause the welts, as can excessive exercise. Sunlight can sometimes cause hives, and chronic cases in individuals who spend lots of time outdoors could be down to sun exposure. Similarly, extreme heat or cold can lead to the condition.

Sometimes insects or parasites are to blame for chronic hives, or there could be an infection of the skin. In other instances it is simply a case of prolonged skin irritation caused by pressure on the skin, for example from tight waistbands or from scratching the skin.

In some cases chronic hives is caused by a mild allergy or reaction to something that is being regularly ingested. Pain medications are known to cause hives, so those who have been regularly taking pain relief for an injury, for example, might trigger chronic urticaria. Some people can have a similar reaction to alcohol or food.

How is Urticaria (Chronic Hives)Treated?

Chronic hives that are linked to specific allergy are usually treated with antihistamines and similar drugs to counteract the body’s reaction. Idiopathic cases, which have no specific cause, can’t be entirely prevented or cured.

Patients must rely on medications and treatments that relieve their symptoms instead. Creams and gels can relieve the itchiness, along with cool baths and showers. Most patients go through elimination diets and allergy testing since finding a trigger allows them to avoid the reaction in the first place.

Severe cases of hives that won’t fade and are interrupting your life can be treated with oral steroids to reverse the reaction. However, these medications come with unpleasant side effects when used regularly, so most patients can only rely on them for the very worst flare ups.

Urticaria (Chronic Hives) Prevention

Those who have suffered from chronic hives in the past and know what triggers it can prevent it from reoccurring by trying to avoid the trigger. If pain medications are to blame, consult a doctor or pharmacist for alternative options. Always avoid food and alcohol which is known to aggravate it. Tight-fitting clothes, and clothes made from materials that tend to itch the skin should be avoided.

If hives are caused by sunlight and the patient has no choice but to spend time outdoors, for example due to the nature of their job, they could try covering the skin with long sleeves and pants. They should also wear a peaked cap and apply sunscreen regularly on skin which cannot be covered with clothes.

Stress induced hives can be prevented by making a concerted effort to alleviate stress. You may consider talking therapies which could help you to find ways to cope with stress. Exercise can provide excellent stress relief, and low intensity exercises which incorporate deep breathing practices, such as yoga and Pilates, may be particular helpful.