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Urticaria (Hives)

Urticaria is the medical term for hives, which are a very common, bothersome skin condition in which the skin raises up into itchy welts that may last for hours to weeks. The welts are usually related to an allergy, though there are many triggers for hives. The welts tend to be pale pink or flesh-colored and very slightly raised above the skin surface; they can be as small as fingertip size or can run together and cover very large areas. During the course of an attack of hives, the welts can come and go and change quite rapidly.There are 2 kinds of hives: acute hives, in which the welts last less than 6 weeks, and chronic hives, in which the welts last longer than 6 weeks. Chronic hives are less understood and may have more complicated triggers than acute hives. Some examples of common triggers include anything that the affected person is allergic to, including foods (especially peanuts and shellfish), drugs, and environmental exposures. Less common triggers include extreme body heat (such as a hot shower) or cold (such as outdoor temperature), some medications, pressure or scratching of the skin, and exercise. Very rare triggers include sunlight, water, and a reaction to adrenaline. Because there are so many triggers for hives, it can be very difficult to identify the correct trigger, and many cases of hives are called "idiopathic," meaning the diagnosis is uncertain. However, because the development of hives may indicate an allergic process, it is important to keep your doctor aware of your hives so that you can be counseled about allergy safety.

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