Hives Overview

Hives, also called urticaria, are an immune reaction on the skin leading to small red wheals. Urticaria is often acute and temporary, but chronic urticaria can also occur. Causes are typically some type of allergy, which leads to a skin reaction. It may be airborne allergens, contact dermatitis, or also food allergies (ingested allergens). In many cases it is difficult to identify the exact allergen causing the reaction. Another possibility is that exposure to cold temperature may trigger “cold urticaria”. There are various other causes of hives. Note that with any allergic reaction there is a risk of anaphylactic shock, which is a medical emergency.

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