Have you suddenly developed itchy, red bumps on your skin? They might show up anywhere — from your face and your neck to your back, chest, or arms. If so, you may be wondering, "what's making me break out in hives?" Hives are itchy and uncomfortable, and you may find them unpleasant to look at.
One or a combination of several things could have triggered your hives. While in many cases, they can resolve on their own, sometimes they may indicate an underlying medical condition.
If you've developed hives and can't figure out why, board-certified allergist Dr. Vasif Kalfa and our team at Allergy & Asthma Clinic of Maryland in Silver Spring, Maryland, can help you get to the bottom of it. Here, he discusses the possible causes of hives, including how to manage them and when to see a doctor.
What are hives, exactly?
If you have itchy, red, or pink welts on your skin, they might be hives. They can vary in size and shape, ranging from tiny pinpricks to large patches. Hives can be unpredictable. Sometimes they resolve after a few hours; other times, they persist for several days or longer.
What could be triggering your hives?
There are many possible causes of hives. Some of the most common include:
This is one of the most common causes of hives. Various allergens — from pollen and food to insect stings and pet dander — could make you break out in hives. Some people may also react to antibiotics or other prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Viral or bacterial infections
Hives can be a sign of a viral or bacterial infection. Viruses that cause the common cold or the flu are typical culprits. Some fungal and parasitic infections can also trigger hives in certain people.
While this isn't as common as other causes, hives can be triggered by exposure to high temperatures — hot showers or baths can cause heat-induced hives. Cold temperatures, cold water, or even cold air can also trigger temperature-induced hives.
For some people, experiencing intense emotional or physical stress can contribute to the development of hives. However, it's not fully understood why this occurs.
How to manage hives
To manage your hives, you first need to figure out what's causing them. Start by keeping a diary of what you were doing, eating, or exposed to before the hives appeared. This helps Dr. Kalfa identify potential triggers when you consult with him to determine the culprit. He’s likely to prescribe antihistamines to help with itching and reduce the appearance of your hives.
If you've identified a specific trigger, try to avoid it. For example, if Dr. Kalfa determines that you’re allergic to a particular food, you should remove it from your diet.
When should you see a doctor?
Ideally, you should consult with Dr. Kalfa if you can't determine what's causing your hives — or if they worsen or persist longer than a day or two. Seek immediate emergency care if you're also experiencing breathing difficulties, dizziness, or swelling of the face, tongue, or throat. These may be signs of a severe allergic reaction.
If your hives last longer than a few days or keep coming back, it's time to make an appointment with Dr. Kalfa. He can help identify the likely cause and recommend appropriate treatment strategies.
Serving patients from Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, or Bethesda, Maryland, as well as the greater Washington D.C. area, our team at Allergy & Asthma Clinic of Maryland understands that breaking out in hives can be an uncomfortable and confusing experience — and we’re here to help. Call 240-332-8010 or click online to schedule a visit today.