Urticaria (Hives and Nettle Rash)
Urticaria is the swelling of the skin due to histamine or other chemicals released from under the skin’s surface. This reaction can be short term or long term. Short term triggers include food allergies (for example to peanuts or shellfish), a reaction to pollen or other environmental allergens, infections, insect bites or stings and emotional stress. Some medications can also produce urticaria as a side effect. Long term urticaria is often more serious, and occurs when the body attacks its own tissues, known as an autoimmune response. The third kind of urticaria is known as chronic urticaria, which comes and goes. Some people find that it is triggered by certain foods or environments. Common triggers include stress, alcohol, caffeine, warm temperatures, prolonged pressure on the skin (for example wearing tight clothing) medications, insect bites and stings, and exposure to heat, cold or water.
Symptoms of urticaria
Urticaria is most obviously recognised by a red, raised and itchy rash. The rash is made up of marks on the skin which can vary in size from a few millimetres to ten or so centimetres. These marks are usually raised and are also known as weals or hives. They are also itchy. The marks can appear all across the body, or in just one area. They can last a few hours before they fade, but when they do the skin will return to normal. The symptoms are normally temporary and will be most severe after 8 to 12 hours. But it will usually completely clear up within 24 hours. The pattern of symptoms in those who suffer from chronic urticaria can be unpredictable, with around half of people suffering with the condition having outbreaks of symptoms lasting 6-12 weeks, followed by a period of remission where the symptoms improve or disappear completely.
Treatments for urticaria
Urticaria usually does not need any treatment, as symptoms are usually mild and will clear up after two or three days. However, some people will suffer with more persistent symptoms, and if you find that they are not clearing up by themselves then over the counter antihistamine medication will help.