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Hives occur when something prompts your body to release histamine, a chemical found in the skin. The histamine causes nearby blood vessels to dilate (open up) and fluid leaks out and collects under the skin. This leakage causes a raised, flushed, itchy welt called a "wheal" or "hive". Some welts look like mosquito bites. Hives often occur in groups and may be as small as pencil erasers or a large as 2 or 3 inches across. They are more common on areas of the body where clothes rub the skin.

Angioedema, a similar swelling, causes large welts below the skin, especially near the eyes and lips, but also on hands and feet and inside the throat.

Hives and angioedema can be triggered by allergies to foods, drugs, pollen, or insect bites, or may be due to infection, illness, cold and heat, or emotional distress. Hives that are a reaction to exposure to things which can be removed from use or from the diet are called "acute" hives and can last for hours or days. Chronic hives (often from an unknown cause) can last for weeks or months. In most cases, hives and angioedema are harmless and leave no lasting effects. However, serious angioedema can cause the throat or tongue to block the airway and cause loss of consciousness. Some foods that occasionally cause hives are nuts, eggs, chocolate, tomatoes, shellfish, wheat, and cheese. Drugs which commonly cause hives are aspirin, penicillin, sulfa antibiotics, and codeine. Animal dander, mold spores, and pollen are also common triggers.

See Your Doctor If...

A big hive develops at a bite site or after bee or other insect sting (You may need a prescription kit containing injectable epinephrine to carry with you)

Seek Emergency Help if...

  • You are wheezing and have difficulty breathing
  • Hives form on the lips and in the throat, interfering with breathing and swallowing
  • Widespread hives occur over body
  • You develop shock, in which severe swelling, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness occurs

Self-Care Tips...

  • Avoid substances that have triggered past attacks
  • If foods may be the cause, keep a food diary
  • Take an oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine hydrochloride (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine maleate (Chor-Trimeton) - these medicines may make you drowsy
  • Topical anti-itch treatments, such as calamine lotion seldom help but are an option
  • Wear light clothing and minimize vigorous activity
  • Rub ice directly over hives or take a cool shower for temporary relief from itching
  • Soak in a lukewarm or cool bath with 1 cup of baking soda or an oatmeal product such as Aveeno

Visit the Health Resource Center at Forks Community Hospital

Stop in the Forks Community Hospital to see the above information on display and also pick up your copies of helpful information to support you in meeting your new goals. May we all have a healthier year filled with many moments that are dear and will be remembered forever

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