Daryl Altman, MD
Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center
Hives, Itchy Skin? No Need To Suffer.
I have itchy welts on my body every day. I stopped eating lots of foods, but it hasn’t helped. What should I do?
Itchy bumps, also called hives or urticaria, are very common. In fact, nearly 1 out of every 5 people will get hives at some time in their life. People are quick to blame food allergy, but that is not always true. Of course, if you get an itchy rash every time you put a forkful of shrimp in your mouth, you’re probably right. But if you get hives every day, or over a long period of time, it is very unlikely that food is to blame—and that’s why cutting out milk or wheat or other foods from your diet doesn’t work. You’ll just be hungry—and itchy.
So what does cause hives? You may be surprised to learn that many medical conditions can be responsible, including infections, thyroid problems, tooth decay, rheumatoid arthritis, hormone changes, hepatitis, viruses, even ill-fitting dentures. Some causes may surprise you: sun exposure, sweating, heat or cold, alcoholic beverages—even exercise. Frustratingly, most cases of chronic hives have no medical explanation at all—but they are almost always treatable, and many cases will go away on their own.
What should I do about my hives? The first step is to see an allergist to find out the cause of your hives. Allergy tests may reveal an allergy—for example, dust mites, or pollen. In this case, treatment will likely consist of allergen avoidance and anti-histamines. Sometimes the allergist will order blood tests or x-rays to look for other medical causes of hives. If there is an underlying medical reason for your hives, then the hives will disappear when the cause is treated. For example, if your hives are related to dental problems, seeing a dentist may be all you need. It is also important to follow your primary care doctor’s recommendations to control your diabetes, anemia, or other health issues, since these conditions may be causing your hives, or making them worse.
What if we can’t find a reason for my hives? Even if tests do not find a cause for your hives, there are excellent treatments. This may include combinations of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medications. Newer injectable treatments, called “biologicals,” can now treat even the most frustrating, chronic hives—often very quickly.
There is no need to suffer with chronic hives and itching. Make an allergist appointment today by calling the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center at 718-945-7150 or by requesting an appointment online at www.addabbo.org.