What Is Urticaria? - Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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  • 0:01 What Is Urticaria?
  • 0:59 What Causes Hives?
  • 1:54 Symptoms
  • 2:23 Treatment
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Virginia Rawls

Virginia has a master' degree in Education and a bachelors in Sports Medicine/athletic Training

Urticaria is a fancy word for hives. Now that you are less intimidated by this scary word, let's learn more about this condition. This lesson will focus on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for those who are experiencing urticaria.

What Is Urticaria?

Rebecca is allergic to almonds. One day, one of Rebecca's co-workers brought in cupcakes from a local bakery. Rebecca was careful to select her cupcake, but she accidentally ate a cupcake that had a vanilla almond cake batter. Thirty minutes pass, and Rebecca begins to see red, blotchy spots appear on her forearms. Her abdomen and chest begin to itch. She goes to the bathroom and looks in the mirror. She is covered with red, itchy bumps. Rebecca is experiencing urticaria.

If you have ever had hives or known someone who has had them, then you have experienced urticaria. Urticaria is the medical term for hives. So, what are hives? Hives are areas of the skin that become raised and itchy. They can either become red or can stay the same color as your skin. Hives can stay as small, itchy bumps or turn into large, swollen welts. These hives can stay in the part of the body where they originated from or can spread all over the body.

Red urticaria on the forearm of a patient.
urticaria

Skin-colored urticaria on the back of a patient.
urticaria 2

What Causes Hives?

Hives are usually triggered by something from outside of the body. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Medications
  • Food
  • Pollen
  • Pet hair and dander
  • Plants, such as poison ivy
  • Latex
  • Bites or stings from insects
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Exposure to extreme heat or cold
  • Exercise

Urticaria can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute urticaria occurs only when exposed to a triggering agent, such as the causes previously mentioned. Acute urticaria lasts for hours or for two to three days. Many times the patient knows the reason for their acute hives and knows how to avoid triggering agents. Chronic urticaria lasts for a prolonged period of time. These hives can last weeks or months and come back without warning. These hives usually happen because the patient has a medical problem with their thyroid or immune disorders.

Symptoms

The symptoms of urticaria are obvious and lead to a quick diagnosis. Symptoms include:

  • Red or skin-colored bumps
  • Itchy feeling at site of the bumps
  • The bumps can grow and shrink in size and can appear and disappear while exposed to the triggering agent
  • The bumps turn white when pressure is applied to them

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