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Urticaria (Hives) and Other Skin Allergy

This page contains information about urticaria (hives) and other skin conditions such as angioedema. You can also find information about symptoms and treatment for urticaria and angioedema on our downloadable Factsheet area.

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What is Urticaria?

Urticaria is also known as ‘nettle rash’ or ‘hives’. This condition consists of wheals - spots or patches of raised red or white skin - each of which usually clears away in a few hours to be replaced by other fresh wheals. Urticaria is very common and affects one in five people at some point in their lives.  The more common type of urticaria rash (hives) lasts up to 24 hours, produces larger wheals and may not completely clear for several days.  It sometimes occurs together with swelling of various parts of the body (angioedema) - typically the face, hands and feet, although anywhere may be affected.

Urticaria, also known as hives or nettlerash, appears as wheals on the skin

What is Angioedema?

Angioedema is another skin allergy and is the name given to deeper swelling affecting the skin over the arms, legs, torso or face. It may also affect the tongue, mouth, throat and sometimes the upper airway. These swellings commonly last for more than 24hrs, and usually there is no itching. It is not possible to identify an underlying cause for angioedema in the vast majority of cases.

Urticaria and angioedema often occur at different times or together in the same person. They occur in about 15 per cent of the population at some time or other in their lives, with women more commonly affected  than men.

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Understanding Urticaria

Visit our YouTube playlist as Dr Pixie McKenna talks more about understanding urticaria and CSU.

Treatment for Urticaria (Hives) and Angioedema

There are two important aspects of treatment for urticaria: avoidance of any reasonably suspected trigger, and treatment with drugs.

Individuals who have urticaria due to aspirin may need to avoid foods that contain high levels of salicylates. As well as this, antihistamines are the mainstay of drug treatment for urticaria and angioedema. They may be taken just when required or regularly to prevent episodes occurring in chronic spontaneous urticaria.

Other prescription drugs are used to treat urticarial and angioedema symptoms if ordinary antihistamines do not control the symptoms effectively.

For more detailed information about urticaria and angioedema and for more useful tips on management and treatment, please find further useful resources below…

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