What is Urticaria?
Hives are localized skin reaction indicating that fluid is collecting (edema). They usually appear suddenly and arc whitish-pink in colour. They may he small or large, and single hives may coalesce with neighboring ones to form a large area of inflamed surface. (This is called “giant hives” or angioneurotic edema.)
The itch is often marked and there is a persistent desire to scratch. But this brings little satisfying relief and often produces further infection later. Sometimes itch is minimal.
The lesions vary in the time they persist. This may be from a few hours to days or even weeks.
Generally hives are a manifestation of an allergy. A product called histamine is liberated by the cells, and this produces the swelling, irritation and itch. The factors producing this sensitivity are many.
The possible ones include:
Sensitising drugs. Practically any medication is capable of producing an allergic reaction in a susceptible person. For example pain-reducing preparations (aspirin etc), antibiotics (particularly penicillin, but others as well), sulpha drugs, antihistamines and many others. Sensitizing foods. Many foodstuffs may produce allergic skin eruptions. Some of the common offenders include wheat products, milk, eggs, pork, fish, shellfish and crustaceans, tomatoes, strawberries and chocolates.
Physical factors. Extremes of heat and cold are fairly common in producing urticarial reactions. (For example, after a hot shower, or a swim in a very cold surf or pool, eruptions can suddenly appear.) Other general factors. Chronic infections, foci of infection (such as bad teeth or tonsils), anaemias, and a similar list of “poor health” conditions have also been incriminated. They may play a part in certain people.
The occurrence of hives is fairly easy to diagnose, and many people have experienced them on many occasions before. Most cases are simple, and home remedies often bring prompt relief.
Cool (or sometimes ice-cold) packs often bring soothing relief from the itch, heat and discomfort. Apply often (but discontinue if there is any worsening). Simple lotions and creams containing an antipruritic (anti-itch) product often give relief if the irritation and itch is excessive (for example, calamine liniment containing benzocaine 3 per cent and camphor 1 per cent). Many commercial products are available for this purpose (eg Dermocaine).
Antihistamine creams do not afford much relief (as would he expected). Antihistamines. In simple cases, an antihistamine tablet will often bring quick relief. The non-sedating brands arc best, for this will not cause drowsiness and will enable a good result without the risk of becoming drowsy while driving or working. Terfenadine (“Teldane”) tablets and astemizole (“Hismanal”) tablets do not induce sleepiness and are worthwhile.
However, if sleepiness is not a problem, any of the older antihistamines are suitable. Many brand names are now available over the counter.
This often assists to eliminate the cause from the system, particularly if the hives appear suddenly and tend to persist. “Coloxyl” or “Colox: with Senna,” or paraffin and its various commercial products are all effective Natural products include psyllium fibre (“Metamucil” powder in water) or taking processed bran with your morning breakfast cereal. “Durolax” an “Granacol” are also effective. Drinking plenty of fluids (especially water) is quick way of eliminating toxins from the system, or diluting them in the gut.
Many people are aware of the foods that produce symptoms. During outbreak it is wise to eliminate the foods listed above that could cause trouble. Stick to simple foods for a few days.
Do not take any medication unless under doctor’s orders. Even if on medication, and relief is not forth coming, it is wise to have this reevaluated by your physician. You may allergic to some of the items taken.
Simple hives often respond quickly and effectively to simple routines. If they persist, or if they become more marked, if they tend to blister or the irritation becomes annoying, further medical advice may be required. Sometimes acute widespread complications take place. Two major complications requiring immediate medical attention a – commencement of hoarseness sudden- or a harsh noise coming from the box, especially if associated with respiratory difficulty and “Anaphylactic. shock,” in which there is uneasiness a feeling of faintness, headache throbbing in the ears. This requires prompt treatment by a doctor.
Adrenaline by injection by the physician may be required and steroid therapy may also be necessary in certain cases. Further investigation is needed if the response persists.