What Causes Hives?

Hives, also known as urticaria, are welts on the skin’s surface that are generally circular with a pale center and a red halo. They can appear anywhere on a person’s body which includes, but is not limited to the face, torso, arms, and legs and sometimes even inside of a person’s mouth or ears. Hives also vary in their shapes and sizes; they can be tiny like or they can be large.

Hives usually show when a person is triggered by an allergic reaction, which could include food allergies, pet dander (sheds skins cells), pollen, or sweating.

What happens is that it triggers the release of histamine in the body which results in symptoms like itching and swelling. There are two categories of hives, acute, which lasts six weeks or less, and chronic, which lasts for more than six weeks.

There are a few substantial causes of which hives occur:

Stress Hives:

Stress hives develop because of chronic stress in a person’s life – either occurring over a short period of time or a long period of time. Stress as such causes the body’s immune system to falter. The body starts to release histamine to kill what is harming its immune system which in this case is stress. As stress cannot be eliminated by histamine this results in stress hives to appear on various parts of a person’s body.

Another possible cause of stress hives could be the weakened immune system reacting to irritants that were not a problem before such as laundry detergents, hot, cold, soaps, and lotions.

Allergy Hives:

There could be many culprits of allergy hives, ranging from food allergies to the pollen found in the great outdoors. Sometimes it is obvious what is causing these hives as there would be an immediate reaction, however it is not always this obvious as symptoms of hives may take hours to develop.

If there is a suspicion of a food allergy then a person can consult their dermatologist who will put them on an elimination diet which would eventually lead to finding and eliminating the culprit from the diet. This would help prevent mild hives from turning into chorionic hives.

Insect bites and pollen may be the obvious culprits in the great outdoors, however, according to Marilyn Li, MD, a Los Angeles-based allergist, an immunologist, direct sunlight, cold temperatures, or strong winds can also bring on hives. However, it does not necessarily mean that a person is allergic to these elements; it may be that they have sensitive skin.

Underlying Illness:

Chronic hives can be a sign of a larger problem, and blood work may be necessary to pinpoint the underlying issue. Dr. Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and the author of Skin Rules, says patients with lupus, lymphoma, thyroid disease, hepatitis, or HIV may have hives as a symptom of their illness. Such hives are chronic in nature and can only be treated by medication.

If a person has contracted a virus, that could be a cause for hives as well. Hives caused by viruses usually last for six weeks, so if the rash persists for longer, a consultation with an allergist may be necessary to determine another possible cause.

Heat Hives:

Though working out and exercise is good for health it can sometimes lead to the body producing acetylcholine, a chemical that can inhibit cell breakdown, as a response to exercise. For some people, the acetylcholine will cause some disruption in the skin cells, as a result to which irritating the skin and creating a rash the same way histamine does.

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