Urticaria is characterized by itchy bumps or areas of raised skin that are light red in color and cause intense itching. This condition is commonly known as hives and while it is most commonly caused by an allergic reaction it can also have non-allergic causes. Urticaria is classified as either acute or chronic and this is dependant on how long the outbreak lasts. Outbreaks that last for less than 6 weeks are referred to as acute urticaria cases while those that last for longer periods are termed as chronic. Acute urticaria is generally the result of an allergic reaction while chronic urticaria often has autoimmune causes. An acute viral infection can also be a cause of acute urticaria. Hives are also known to be caused by local pressure, friction, extremes of temperature, and sunlight.

Symptoms of Urticaria

The most prominent symptom of urticaria is swelling of the surface of the skin. The pattern of the hives may get larger, spread out, or join together to alter the pattern as the condition progresses and spreads over a larger surface area. They may also disappear and reappear within a few minutes or within hours. If you press the center of a hive, it affects the entire hive, and it will turn white. An outbreak of hives generally escalates very rapidly and it is possible for the bumps to appear and spread over your skin within 30 minutes. This rapidity is considered to be one of the most characteristic of all urticaria symptoms. The raised patches of skin will be extremely itchy while the rest of your skin may be very sensitive. The welts caused by urticaria may be either pin point, or patch size in area and in some cases it can cause a secondary skin condition known as Angioedema. Single hives that cause much pain will last more than a day and leave bruise marks as they are likely to be a more serious condition known as urticarial vasculitis. Hives that are caused by friction will be linear in appearance and are of a benign condition and require little or no urticaria treatment apart from eliminating the source of friction.

The intense itching can become unbearable to the point where the individual may inadvertently cause damage to the skin by scratching at the affected areas. The condition can be disturbing to parents who have never experienced it themselves, but observe it in their children. Although you may find yourself exasperated as your child continues to scratch at the skin, despite your warnings against doing so, you need to keep your calm. The intense itching can be unbearable, and even adults find it near impossible to restrain themselves. Instead of admonishing your child, , make sure that you take steps to minimize the discomfort and try to distract a child with hives so that they do not scratch the rash. In severe cases, the individual may also have a fever and may suffer from digestive distress. In most cases, the rash subsides for a couple of hours or even days before it returns. Other severe urticaria symptoms include periodic flushing, headaches, dizziness, respiratory problems, fluid retention, tongue or facial swelling and hypotension. Medical attention is essential, as if neglected, severe cases of utricaria can even cause asphyxiation, resulting in death. There are several ongoing research programs to understand the exact causes of this condition in order to increase the effectiveness of existing treatment methods.

Causes of Urticaria

There is a lot that we still do not understand about urticaria causes although we do know that there are certain triggers and certain reactions that could cause the symptoms associated with utricaria to flare up. The absence of any well defined or clear cause of urticaria does to a large extent limit our ability to deal with the problem. The point to note is that urticaria is not always caused through or because of an allergy and there is no definitive urticaria cure. Non–allergic causes are connected to auto- immunity, to hormone interplay to stress factors, and more. These are some of the more common urticaria causes or triggers:

  • Allergens in food stuff: Food allergies are often induced by the consumption of egg, milk, cheese, wheat, cereals, protein products, peas, chicken, fish, oranges, among other foods.
  • Food additives: Certain food additives and synthetic preservatives may cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol allergies are rather rare and in most cases the reaction is brought on by the ingredients used to prepare the alcoholic beverage rather than the alcohol itself. For instance a person may suffer from an allergic reaction after drinking wine but the root cause would probably be the grapes that were used to make the wine. In the same way a person may believe that they are allergic to the alcohol in beer although they are actually allergic to the wheat or barley that is used to make the beer. Some people may even be allergic to the yeast that is used in the fermentation process.
  • Drugs: antibiotics like penicillin, vaccinations, anti –inflammatory drugs like aspirin and contraceptive pills are just some of the many drugs that can cause an allergic reaction. Animals treated with penicillin secrete a small amount of the drug in their milk, and sensitive individuals may experience a reaction after consuming this milk.
  • Infections and Infestations: Insect bites, frequent fungal and bacterial infections of the urinary tract, viral infections like hepatitis, worm infestations such as tapeworms and round worms can cause acute allergies.
  • Environmental Factors:  Exposure to pollen, dust, fungi, sudden changes in temperature, and even extreme temperatures are some of the triggers of acute urticaria. Some people may experience allergic reactions to high humidity levels.
  • Synthetic Products: Cosmetic products like lipsticks and foundation as well as perfumes and deodorants are common urticaria triggers.  
  • Emotional Factors: Stress and anxiety may aggravate a urticaria outbreak and could even increase the frequency of the attacks.

Remedies for Urticaria

The symptoms of urticaria are often very obvious and this often has a negative impact on one’s social life. This in turn can cause a great deal of distress and anxiety which would only serve to aggravate the condition. You can consult your doctor for detailed advice on how to cure urticaria symptoms such as itching and inflammation. There are also several home remedies for hives that can be used to treat the condition as well as reduce the severity of the symptoms. While there is little supporting research to back up most of these home treatments, some of them are extremely effective. Treatment results could vary greatly however, and in some cases certain remedies may be ineffective. Exercise caution when using any of these home treatments. These are some of the most effective home remedies for urticaria:

  • You can get instant relief by applying a cold compress over your itchy skin. Alternatively you could also use a cold compress to soothe your inflamed skin.
  • Aloe vera gel can also be applied over the affected area to reduce inflammation. Aloe vera gel is know to have a cooling effect and this will help provide relief, especially if you have the urge to scratch the inflamed area.
  • A food allergy attack can last for quite a while as the allergen remains within your system and this increases the severity of the reaction. Drink plenty of fluids such as fresh fruit and vegetable juices as this will help to get rid of the allergen and reduce the recovery period.
  • Oatmeal is a very effective natural remedy for urticaria. Place 2 heaped tablespoons of oatmeal in a bowl and add about half a cup of water to it. Make sure that the water is just enough to cover the oatmeal and keep the bowl aside. After 10 minutes or so you will find that the oatmeal has absorbed all the water in the bowl. Place a clean strip of cloth over a mug and then place the soaked oatmeal on the cloth. Slowly pour about ½ a cup of water over the oatmeal and allow it to collect in the mug below. This water will be slightly murky as it contains mucilage from the oatmeal. Apply this to your skin to reduce the itching and discomfort.

Diet for Urticaria

Diet plays a very important role in the treatment of urticaria, especially in the case of a food allergy. The first step in planning your diet for urticaria is to avoid the food that is causing the reaction. If you are unsure as to what food caused your reaction, you would need to make a list of all the foods that you have consumed in the last 24 hours and avoid all of them if possible. Try to recall if your diet in the last 48 hours included foods that you do not usually consume. Take away food, especially Chinese food is often associated with food allergies due to the spices and condiments that are used to prepare them. 

In addition to this, it would be wise to stick to a bland diet for a few days or until the symptoms subside. Avoid foods like shellfish, eggs, and pineapples as they could aggravate your condition. It would also be best if you also avoid milk and milk products, eggs, and soy products.

Suggestions for Urticaria

The intense discomfort may tempt you to self-medicate but this is not advisable as certain medications may aggravate your condition. It would be wise to seek medical attention as soon as possible so that you recover quickly. However, if you experience fever and/or breathing problems, you may require immediate medical attention. Make a list of all your symptoms, no matter how trivial they may seem, so that your doctor is able to make an accurate diagnosis.

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9 Urticaria remedies suggested by our users
Remedy for Urticaria
suggested by Ram on Thursday, August 2, 2007

I have suffered for 2 years, intense itching from head to foot. After trying few types of medicines, finally homeopathy could cure me. Please make sure, the homeopath must be really well qualified to diagnose root cause. I strongly recommend homeopathy for urticaria.

Urticaria & Chocloate
suggested by [unspecified] on Sunday, July 1, 2007

I found that my urticaria arose whenever i ate a particular type of chocolate. This was small chocolate chips found in Biscuits like Hide & Seek / Choconut etc and also when i ate 'Selbourne' chocolate. This appears to also happen when i have indigestion problem and i eat this chocolate. Never happens when i eat other chocolates. I get relief by applying a little Axe Oil or PakFahYeow

Avoid peanuts, coffee and chocolate
suggested by Angel on Monday, May 14, 2007

I have had urticaria for 7 years, and in that time I've made some discoveries. First, upon the first sensations of an itch, DO NOT SCRATCH IT; slap it instead. If that doesn't work, I've found that a bath in the hottest water possible really helps to releive my discomfort/itch, then put on a long-sleeved cotton shirt that is relatively form-fitting (but not constrictive) and cotton yoga pants. I've noticed a link between my consumption of peanuts/peanut butter, coffee, and, yes, even chocolate to uriticaria outbreaks. Since I've eliminated peanuts/peanut butter from my diet entirely, I almost never get outbreaks (except the rare days that I have a cup of coffee as a special treat--then I know what I'm in for). Try experimenting with your diet, but I know the above mentioned foods are known to be common allergy-producing foods, so this could be a good starting (and perhaps ending) point... Good luck!

Urticaria Remedies
suggested by Neelima on Tuesday, April 17, 2007

1. Mint juice in small quantity of water without any additives to be taken twice a day. In winter, mint leaves can be boiled, water thereafter can be drunk. 2. 5 Gms of Soda Bicarbonate (cooking soda) dissolved in ordinary water at room temperature, can be applied to affected areas.

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