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Hives usually start as an itchy patch of skin that turns into swollen red bumps—they can sometimes be mistaken for bug bites. They are also known as nettle rash or urticaria. Although hives usually itch, they can also burning or stinging and can appear anywhere on the body, alone or in groups. Hives usually appear suddenly and go away just as quickly. They can also move around, disappear and reappear. Hives can be annoying, but are not considered contagious.
Hives fall into two main categories: acute and chronic. Acute hives resolve quickly—most in a couple of hours to a day; chronic hives continue for six weeks or longer.
There are many causes of hives. A lot of everyday things can cause hives, including extreme temperatures, sun, exercise, viral infections, or stress. Occasionally, hives can point to a more serious, rare condition known as mastocytosis. Medications, latex, animal saliva and bee/wasp/hornet stings can also cause hives.
Another common reason for hives is an allergy to food. Some common foods are:
So, how do you know if your hives are caused by an allergy or not? If you think you or a loved one has allergies, don’t try to manage the problem on your own. A simple blood test – together with your medical history – can help identify underlying allergen triggers, if you have an allergy. A blood test can be done even if hives are present or if you’re taking antihistamines. Be sure to consult with your healthcare professional because knowing if you’re allergic and what you’re allergic to can help you, or a loved one, avoid or minimize symptoms.