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Tell me about Allergies!

Urticaria (Hives)

About 20% of the US population develops hives (urticaria) sometime during their life.  Usually these last just a shot time, often have no determined cause, and may never happen again.  A small portion of these hives-sufferers, however, continue to have problems with hives every day.  By the time hives have been occurring daily for 6 weeks or more, we call it Chonic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU).  And this can make life very unpleasant.

Hives are raised red warm itchy areas on the skin.  Usually each individual hive lasts aboud 24 hours, and is then replaced by another different hive.  A patient with hives naturally wants to know what is causing the hives, so s/he can avoid the trigger, and no longer suffer with hives.  These patients come to the allergist wanting to find this information. 

Medicines, foods, insect stings, and skin contact reactions like latex are common causes of hives.  There are also non-allergic causes of hives-  some medications like aspirin or vancomycin, foods like aged cheeses or red wine, or some radiocontrast media.

So when someone develops CIU, a diligent search is performed to try to identify a trigger or cause.  When a trigger is identified, it can often be changed or removed, and the hives get better.

The frustrating news for many hives sufferers is that they have chronic idiopathic urticaria- and idiopathic means 'we can't find out what causes it'.  Newer research, however, suggests that there may be an autoimmune (allergy to self) component to some of this cases.  Xolair (an anti-IgE) is a medication that is injected twice a month.  Originally used to treat severe asthma, it is showing promise for severe hives also.  Here are links to a few studies about this, study from Wilford Hall Medical Center, Charleston, South Carolina, and Montreal