Hives: When the skin overreacts

Hives (urticaria) are a widespread skin hypersensitivity reaction in Germany. The disease causes typical symptoms such as skin redness, wheals (red swelling) and a strong itching. The causes and causes of hives are manifold: they can be triggered, among other things by certain drugs and food, but also by heat, cold and pressure. In the treatment of hives, finding the cause is paramount. Until this is found, the therapy focuses on alleviating the symptoms.

Hives - a widespread rash

Hives - also called nettle fever - are among the atopic eczema and psoriasis among the most widespread skin diseases in Central Europe. It is estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of Germans suffer from hives at least once in their lives. The name derives from the Latin term for nettle (urtica) because the symptoms are similar to skin reactions that occur after contact with a stinging nettle.

The symptoms of hives are caused by the messenger histamine. This is released by a faulty reaction of the immune system to an actually harmless trigger in large quantities. Histamine increases the permeability of the blood vessels of the skin in the body and there is water retention in the dermis - the wheals.

Hives: causes and triggers

The causes for the release of histamine are diverse, in about ten percent of cases, there is an allergy to the symptoms. This can for example be against certain foods or against drugs. In addition, viral diseases, infections with parasites, internal diseases, autoimmune diseases and infections in the ear, nose and throat can be possible causes of hives.

In addition, hives can also be triggered by the following external stimuli:

  • cold
  • warmth
  • light
  • friction
  • pressure

Likewise, mental factors should be able to influence the hives. It is considered relatively certain that stress can have a negative effect on existing hives. Whether stress is the sole cause of the skin disease in question, but is still uncertain.

By the way, hives are not contagious or inheritable. Only a special form of cold-hives can be passed on to the next generation. However, this form is extremely rare.

Hives: typical symptoms

The typical symptom of hives is a red rash that usually itches heavily. The itching is often very stressful for those affected, because they can concentrate only hard on other things and therefore also sleep badly. Characteristic is the feeling of those affected to be able to counteract the itching by pinching or pressure with the fingernails. This differentiates hives from other skin diseases such as eczema, where sufferers are more likely to relieve the itching by scratching.

In addition to itching, red puffiness on the skin - the so-called wheals - is another typical symptom of hives. The wheals are partially distressing for those affected because they can look disfiguring. They often appear as pale pink to red small elevations that grow larger over time.

The wheals can only occur on certain parts of the body or on the whole body. Especially typical of hives is hiking these wheals: they disappear in one place and reappear at another.

Swelling in revenge as a life-threatening symptom

Hives often cause swelling and water retention in the subcutaneous tissue called angioedema. In rare cases mucous membranes in the mouth, throat and larynx may also be affected by the swelling. This can lead to life-threatening breathing problems. Patients should therefore always carry an allergy emergency kit with them. It should contain a liquid antihistamine, a liquid cortisone preparation and an adrenaline injection.

The individual symptoms of hives can occur very quickly - within a few minutes after contact with the trigger - or only after a few hours. As a rule, the symptoms disappear again after 24 hours at the latest, in some cases the wheals develop after half an hour. During a hives-boost, however, the symptoms may reappear after a short break. A hives boost can last for several days or even weeks.

Hives in children

Not only adults, but also children can be affected by hives. However, the skin disorder is less likely to occur in children. Mainly adults are affected by chronic hives.

Hives also show typical symptoms in children, such as red wheals and intense itching. In babies and toddlers, a hives-thrust often lasts only a few days, then the disease disappears by itself. Otherwise, a pediatrician or dermatologist should be consulted to determine the cause of the condition.

Especially in small children is an expired virus infection behind the hives. But also an allergy to certain foods or medicines as well as high heat can trigger the unpleasant symptoms.

Hives and pregnancy

During pregnancy, the symptoms of hives often improve as the immune system is subdued. However, some women also report a worsening of the disease. In addition, hives can be triggered for the first time by the strong hormonal changes during pregnancy.

Greater disease rates in pregnant women can be problematic as taking many medicines for hives during pregnancy is not allowed.

Different types of hives

Since hives are a very complex disease, different sub-forms are distinguished:

  • Spontaneous hives
  • Physical hives
  • Cholinergic hives
  • Contact urticaria

In these subtypes, hives are divided into either their duration or the cause of the disease. Find out more about the different types of hives on the next book page.

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