Hives (Urticaria)
Hives, known medically as urticaria, are very itchy red welts on the body. These raised inflamed patches can come and go quickly and move to new areas of the body rapidly.  Most cases of hives, while uncomfortable, are not serious, and last for a few days to a few weeks. Hives are the result of excess of histamine release from specialized immune system cells in the skin called mast cells. The released histamine then causes the swelling, itching and redness characteristic of urticaria.  Although the trigger for this histamine release in the skin is often unknown, some causative factors of hives include foods  (nuts, seafood, eggs, chocolate, tomatoes, berries and milk),  medications, and certain infections.  There are subtypes of urticaria that are associated with heat, cold, stress, vibration or exercise.  Sometimes people can get a hive-like reaction from rubbing or stroking the skin; this is known as 'dermatographism'.  If urticaria persists for a long time, it may be prudent to rule out any underlying cancers or other medical conditions as the cause. Therefore, certain blood work and or screening health measures would be recommended.  Because urticaria is the result of excess histamine, the mainstay of treatment involves the use of anti-histamine medications. Treatment is often based on controlling the symptoms and eliminating the cause.
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