Hives (Urticaria) & Swelling (Angioedema) Disorders

Urticaria (Hives) & Swelling (Angioedema) Disorders
We often break these disorders into two categories:  Acute Urticaria and Chronic Urticaria -- both either with or without Angioedema.  
"Acute" isolated episodes can be allergy related (ie: peanut, shrimp or other acute food allergy, bee-sting or latex allergy, medication allergy, etc).  These reactions are usually brief, intense, and then resolve in hours or less than a few days at most.  Once allergic to one of these things, hives generally reoccur whenever future re-exposure occurs.  Atypical Viral Infections are often "hidden causes" of acute hives.
"Chronic" ongoing episodes (defined as more than six weeks in duration & usually at least three days of each week) are rarely due to allergies.*  Chronic urticaria, too, often begins after immune system activation following a viral infection (ie: head cold, flu, stomach bug, etc).  When chronic urticaria is ongoing for months, it is often due "auto-antibodies" against one's own mast cell receptors (ie: the histamine containing cells that when stimulated by the auto-antibodies spill their histamine which causes the hives/swelling).
*Its not wrong to test to foods or aeroallergens or any other triggers, if you have any suspicion at all that certain "hidden allergens" may be causing your chronic urticaria.  Sometimes, negative allergy testing and oral challenges are very helpful and reassuring that you can go back to eating a certain food, etc...   We also may want to check some non-allergy lab tests to look for rare underlying "hidden" medical causes.  We'll discuss these options at your appointment.
Read the Handout & Watch the Video to Learn More.

Please print out this
 Urticaria/Angioedema Handout
to open & print the PDF from your printer
and then 
follow along in the handout as we cover each section in the videos to the right side of this webpage.

* Update: Since this handout/video was created, we now have a new medication for severe chronic hives called Xolair - which we can also discuss at your visit.

Urticaria/Angioedema Handout Video