A hive is a small to large, raised, itchy "wheal" of skin that lasts no longer than a day and usually clears up within a few hours. The hives may be small bumps or large, irregularly shaped areas.
Most people experience what is called acute urticaria where the hives are short lasting, of a known origin, and do not recur. However, a small percent of people have hives of unknown origin all the time and are diagnosed with chronic hives (urticaria). Urticaria is classified as chronic when it is recurrent for at least six weeks.
Evaluation and Treatment
At National Jewish Health, board-certified allergists see patients with chronic urticaria and provide a comprehensive evaluation, including a thorough history and physical examination.
Depending upon the findings of the initial evaluation, the following tests may be necessary: allergy skin testing, laboratory testing and blood work, and occasionally, a challenge to the suspected allergen is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. If indicated, challenges are coordinated with safety as the highest priority. National Jewish Health has a state-of-the-art challenge facility with extensive experience and an impeccable record in the performance of allergen challenges.
In most cases, non-sedating antihistamines are prescribed as a first line of treatment and can greatly reduce the hives. In severe cases, other stronger medications may be prescribed and the patient is followed closely to ensure no troublesome side effects occur.
Typical Hives Patients
Although anyone can get hives, it is slightly more common in middle-age women.
People with allergic asthma or who are allergic to food, medicine, insect stings or latex.