Urticaria - sometimes known as hives, nettle rash or welts – is an itchy rash that can affect any area of the body. It is thought that 1 in 6 people will experience acute (short-term) urticaria at some point in their life, and the condition will often clear up by itself in a matter of days.
Chronic (long-term) urticaria affects around 1 in 1,000 people, and women are twice as likely to be affected as men. It can affect children and adults, and is especially prevalent in those with a history of allergies.
Urticaria is caused when the body creates a high level of histamine as a result of triggers. These triggers can range from:
In some cases, urticaria can be the first sign of anaphylaxis, so if you go on to experience any difficulty breathing, feel faint or nauseous, or have swelling around the mouth or eyes, then dial 999 immediately.
There are some triggers that many chronic urticaria sufferers acknowledge to be aggravators of their condition. These include:
In many acute cases, the cause of urticaria is not known, but those with chronic urticaria will usually begin to see patterns in their symptoms and will often be able to identify their own triggers.
Your GP may suggest an allergy test, and you may be prescribed antihistamines, steroids or cortisoids. Some of these treatments can be harsh for sensitive skins, and steroids can cause thinning and discolouration, so you may choose to seek natural alternatives.