Urticaria is a skin condition that is more colloquially known as hives. Essentially, it is a rash of varying levels of intensity, marked with distinctive features like bright red, itchy bumps that are raised. The majority of people who experience urticaria do so in reaction to an allergen of some kind, though there are plenty of non-allergen causes as well.
There are a wide variety of causes that lead to hives, and a large quantity of hives have an idiopathic and unknown cause. Typically, hives are not life-threatening, though they can be a symptom of another condition that may be harmful in the future.
Urticaria is also referred to as nettle-rash, and a lot of people describe moderate cases as similar to reactions caused by being stung by stinging nettle. In serious cases, large elevated and reddened wheals can appear all over the body, and the irritation can be unbearable.
Urticaria causes redness because the capillaries leak out in the dermis layer, and this continues until the fluid is reabsorbed and the leaking stops.
Any number of allergens can cause allergic urticaria, and they can be organized into two categories: internal or topical. Many individuals suffer allergic reactions due to certain foods and medicines, and if they come into contact with them, they may break out into hives of varying levels of severity.
In rare cases, their allergic reaction can be so serious that even brushing against an allergen can cause a severe case of urticaria. When a severe allergic reaction is occurring, large amounts of histamine are being produced, causing the itching response. Due to this, ingesting an antihistamine can potentially alleviate the itching and eventually eliminate the rashes.
For the most part, an urticaria outbreak does not last long, with the average rash duration being within one or two hours. Some cases may dissipate within only a few seconds. More often than not, however, the rash will persist, so that it may appear several times in the same day even if they do not last very long each time.
In severe events, the rash may last for a lengthy period of time, although it is not likely for urticaria that is provoked by allergens to remain for more than four to six weeks. Should it last more than that, it is most likely non-allergic and could be an indication of a more severe condition.
Experiencing hives is typically the most annoying characteristic of an allergic reaction for an individual. For most people, the unattractive blemish of a chunk of reddened, swollen skin is worse than the accompanying irritation or pain that the allergy can cause.
The itchiness in severe cases can become nearly unbearable, and there is very little an individual can do about it. Even though antihistamines can be beneficial in severe cases, intense urticaria can be difficult to keep under control.
As such, the best way to approach urticaria is to avoid the allergens that cause it in the first place (though in cases of idiopathic or viral urticaria, this could prove to be nearly impossible). For individuals who experience severe allergies, be cautious of foods and medications and other such possible sources of allergens.
It is better to be safe than sorry when dealing with an irritating condition like allergic urticaria.