Hives are a series of reddened bumps that develop suddenly on the skin. Hives can be clustered together, and they may appear anywhere on the body. Many people find hives to be itchy, and may cause a burning sensation as well. Hives usually last for only a period of hours. Some hives come and go so fast that the patient is not even able to make it to the doctor to be examined before they vanish. Other hives may last days or weeks. Some may leave marks behind on the skin.
There are a variety of different causes of hives. Viral infections, allergies (most notably food and medication allergies), infections, stress and even metabolic diseases, like overactive thyroid, can cause hives to develop. Some people develop hives when exposed to extremely hot weather or when they have been exercising strenuously. Sometimes, the cause of hives is simply not known. To try to determine the cause, it can be very helpful to keep a journal of all hives breakouts, noting exactly where and when they happened.
The treatment for hives can vary according to the cause of the hives. Many people find relief from hives with the use of antihistamines. Corticosteroids are often prescribed for people with hives, but they are normally not designed to be used long term. If food allergies are determined to be the cause of the hives, a strict diet that eliminates as much exposure to that food as possible is usually recommended. If a medication is determined to be responsible for the hives, every effort should be made to avoid that medication, finding an appropriate replacement if necessary. While waiting for any treatment to take effect, it is important that patients avoid scratching as much as possible. Scratching the hives can trigger the development of new hives.