What Causes Urticaria?

Urticaria, commonly known as hives, is a skin condition characterized by the sudden appearance of red, raised, and itchy welts or bumps on the skin. Urticaria is typically caused by an allergic reaction or other factors that trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals in the body. Some common causes and triggers of urticaria include:

  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to foods, medications, insect stings or bites, pollen, latex, or other allergens are a frequent cause of acute urticaria. These reactions can occur shortly after exposure to the allergen.
  • Medications: Some medications can trigger urticaria as an adverse side effect. Common culprits include antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and certain pain relievers.
  • Infections: Viral or bacterial infections, such as the common cold or strep throat, can sometimes lead to urticaria as the body’s immune response.
  • Physical Triggers: Certain physical factors and activities can induce a type of urticaria known as physical urticaria. These triggers include:
    • Cold Urticaria: Exposure to cold temperatures or cold objects.
    • Heat Urticaria: Exposure to heat, including hot showers or baths.
    • Pressure Urticaria: Pressure on the skin, such as from tight clothing or belts.
    • Dermatographism: Scratching or firmly rubbing the skin.
  • Stress: Emotional stress and anxiety can sometimes trigger urticaria or exacerbate existing symptoms.
  • Exercise: In some individuals, physical activity or exercise can lead to exercise-induced urticaria.
  • Certain Foods: Some foods, particularly those high in histamine or histamine-releasing substances, can trigger urticaria in susceptible individuals. Examples include certain fish, cheeses, and alcoholic beverages.
  • Chronic Urticaria Causes: Chronic urticaria, which lasts for six weeks or more, often has no identifiable cause. It may be associated with autoimmune or inflammatory factors.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Occasionally, urticaria can be associated with underlying medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, or vasculitis.
  • Insect Bites: In addition to causing allergic reactions, some insect bites can directly trigger urticaria in certain individuals.

It’s important to note that the triggers for urticaria can vary widely from person to person, and in some cases, the cause may remain unidentified (idiopathic urticaria). If you experience recurrent or severe hives, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider or allergist to identify the specific triggers and develop a treatment plan. Treatment may involve antihistamines, corticosteroids, or, in cases of severe or chronic urticaria, other medications or therapies to manage symptoms and prevent recurrences.