Hives in Singapore
What are Hives?
Hives, also known by the medical term urticaria, is a fairly widespread skin condition that has a high statistical appearance. One in five people will be affected by hives at some point during the course of their lives. You can recognize hives by their very distinctive symptoms. Patients are usually covered by pinkish-red bumps. Sometimes, hives appear in the form of welts or swollen plaques. These symptoms usually make a rather sudden appearance.
The welts are itchy and often have a similar appearance to nettle rashes and mosquito bites. They can either streak across the body in lines or large upraised surface areas about the skin. Hives are not particularly discriminating. It can appear anywhere on your body, including the face, ears, throat, tongue, lips, and throat. The good news is that they usually resolve during the course of 24 hours. However, there are certain circumstances where they take longer to disappear from the skin.
Why am I suddenly developing hives?
As we all know, hives are more often than not caused by allergies. However, non allergic hives (idiopathic urticaria) are independent of any allergens.
While non-allergic hives affect more women than men, it can also affect a high percentage of men in Singapore. Further, men generally suffer from hives brought on by high body temperatures more frequently than their female counterparts. Males between the ages of 16 and 30 usually exhibit symptoms. Hives are often allergy based and you owe it to yourself to find your triggers.
What causes hives?
Hives appear on the skin when histamine from mast cells is released. Histamine production can be triggered by any of the following:
- Water exposure
- Sun exposure
- Temperature changes
- Tight-fitting garments
- Animal hair and fur
- Dust mites
- Medication (medicines for high blood pressure – ACE inhibitor is a good example)
- Food allergens including preservatives and food coloring agents
It is important to note that sometimes, underlying allergy triggers are not easily identifiable.
What condition can mimic hives?
There is a condition that looks remarkably similar to hives or urticaria. It is called Angioedema. The swelling associated with Angioedema occurs below the skin. It is a deep swelling (the medical term is edema) that emerges around the eyes, lips, hands, feet, and genitals. It generally lingers longer than hives but in most instances, the swelling recedes within a day.
How are hives usually diagnosed?
The first step toward a diagnosis for hives is through clinical history and examination.
Depending on the outcome, your doctor might carry on to perform some allergy testing.
Are there any treatment options for hives?
It is usually difficult to pinpoint the cause of hives, but there are treatments that can be used on active rashes.
- Oral Steroids
- Antihistamine tablets
- Injection biologics
The rash may last anywhere between six and twelve months. Hives often disappear slowly over time.
Is there anything that I can do to manage hives?
Yes, there are things that you can do to help manage hives. The first thing you should start with is to keep track of your flares. Write down when your rash appears and try to think about what may have triggered the response in your body.
If you work out what your triggers are, you should try to stay away from them.
I also recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing so that air can easily circulate around your skin. It may also help to keep cool, especially in Singapore’s humidity — if you have air conditioning, use it.
You should also try to keep calm. Stress does not help hives at all. Do whatever activity helps you relieve stress (e.g. exercise and meditation).
When should I make an appointment to see my doctor?
Do consider seeking medical attention if you:
- Are unsure what is the cause of your rash.
- Experience intense itching and the appearance of the rash is alarming.
- Experience symptoms that last longer than a day.
- Feel the hives are painful and have a bruised appearance.
Very rarely, if you start exhibiting symptoms that are often associated with angioedema like difficulty breathing or wheezing, please seek medical attention immediately.
What more should I know about angioedema?
Angioedema occurs when fluid gathers under the skin causing swelling and it usually happens quickly.
Hives and angioedema share many of the same triggers. However, there are certain scenarios that are unique to Angioedema.
There is evidence that angioedema may run in families. If your family members suffer from angioedema, chances are, you may have it too.
In instances where the cause of angioedema remains unknown, it is referred to as idiopathic angioedema.
If you believe that the rash you are experiencing is hives and your symptoms are worsening, do reach out to your doctor!
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