Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors
"Can certain foods make me break out in hives?"
Sometimes I just break out. I am a 22 year old woman. It's happened on and off forever. What is it? Food? Cold? Grass?
There are many different causes for hives, also known as urticaria. Hives are usually transient and are red, raised, and itchy. The differential for hives include allergic reactions, insect bite reactions, contact exposures, and systemic conditions. Your primary care physician can help determine if your skin lesions are true hives and help with management. Allergies are on the top of the differential for hives. The list of possible allergens is extensive. Many people have food allergies, with the most common being to nuts, shellfish, and eggs. Food allergies can be especially dangerous and lead to anaphylaxis which is a more systemic allergic reaction which can include respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular effects. You can also have allergies to drugs (most common is penicillin) and environmental allergens, like cat hair, dog dander, mold, ragweed, pollen, and grass. There is also something known as oral-allergy syndrome which is an allergic reaction to uncooked fruits and vegetables that contain similar proteins as pollens. Additionally, there are various medical causes that result in recurrent urticaria. These include autoimmune diseases (like Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis), hypo- or hyper-thyroidism, and serum sickness. Your primary care physician can discuss these possibilities with you. A dermatologist can help evaluate your possible allergies through skin prick testing and blood IgE testing. Prior to your visit, it would be helpful for you to think about your previous episodes of hives and see if there is any pattern or repeated exposures that could be the cause of the allergy.
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