Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How can I get rid of my hives?"
I'm a 31 year old female office worker who began getting hives on my legs and feet about three months ago. I have been to an allergist who seems to be stumped. He has put me on Xyxal, which helps, but if I don't take the medicine the hives come back in a day or two. What can I try to get rid of them?
Hives (or urticaria, which is the medical term) are a common problem which involves a sensitivity reaction in the skin. Urticaria, when they last a few days or weeks, are often caused by viral infections, food reactions, and similar exposures. However, once urticaria have gone on for more than 6 weeks, they are referred to as "chronic urticaria." More than 80% of cases of chronic urticaria end up having no identifiable cause, so it is no wonder that your allergist is 'stumped'. Usually, the first step in dealing with chronic urticaria is to rule out a serious underlying medical disorder. This can be done with some simple blood tests looking for markers of inflammation, and sometimes a biopsy of one of the hives to rule out a condition called vasculitis. If these tests are negative, then the good news is that chronic urticaria usually gets better on its own over months to years. There is an association between worsening hives and alcohol intake, also with the ingestion of ibuprofen and similar drugs, so you should avoid those. Your primary care doctor may prescribe antihistamine medications to keep the hives under control and, in some cases, a short course of oral steroids.
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