Hives are pink swellings that occur in groups on any part of the skin. They can vary in size. Some lesions cover the area similar to that of a pencil eraser, others may be much larger. Affected areas may join together to create larger swellings. The condition usually produces itching, burning or stinging. It is estimated that 10-20% of the population will have at least one episode of hives in their lifetime.
In up to 50% of cases, the cause is never found. However, a determination of the source of the problem may include allergic reactions, chemicals in foods, or medications. Insect bites, stress, cold and sunlight may also be the basis for the onset of hives.
Foods that may trigger the onset of hives in some individuals include nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, fresh berries and milk. Food additives and preservatives may also be responsible. If food is the cause, the lesions will appear anywhere from minutes to two hours after that particular substance is ingested.
Prescriptions that may be the source of hives include antibiotics, pain medications, sedatives, tranquilizers and diuretics. Non-prescription drugs such as antacids, vitamins, laxatives, eye or ear drops can also be a factor.
Infections, including upper respiratory tract infections in children, and viruses including Hepatitis B at times are responsible for the onset of hives.
The treatment of hives is to find the cause and eliminate it. While investigating the cause, antihistamines may be prescribed by your dermatologist to provide relief. In severe cases, an injection of epinephrine or cortisone may bring dramatic relief.