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What are hives (urticaria)?
Hives (medical name is urticaria) is a common rash with short-lived (a few minutes to hours), raised and itchy bumps and welts due to skin swelling. Bumps may have semicircular or circular appearance. Bumps usually show up many times again until the rash slowly clears within a few weeks, but in some chronic (i.e. long lasting) cases it can take several years to completely clear. Hives may occur due to: food allergy, some medications, infections, autoimmune reaction, or due to sensitivity to cold, heat, skin pressure, water or exercise. In many cases the cause cannot be determined.
Should I see my health care provider?
In general, you should see your health care provider to have an initial exam, and to have the correct diagnosis, but in most cases hives resolve on their own, even before you are able to see any provider.
What is the treatment for hives?
The best is to avoid any known triggers. Sometimes you will need antihistamine pills that should not make you sleepy such as cetirizine (brand name: Zyrtec), fexofenadine (brand name: Allegra) or loratadine (brand name: Claritin), or even pills that can make you sleepy such as diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl) or hydroxyzine (brand name Atarax). Only in rare and desperate cases we prescribe corticosteroid pills such as prednisone, but only for a short period of time (1-4 weeks).