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Hives - what is it?

Hives - what is it?

​How do I know what skin allergy my child might be suffering from?

If your little ones has red, bumpy, scaly, itchy or swollen skin, they may have a skin allergy. The appearance will vary depending on which skin allergy they’re suffering from:

  • Hives are red, itchy, raised areas of the skin that can range in size and appear anywhere on your body.
  • Angioedema is a swelling of the deeper layers of the skin that often occurs with hives.
  • Eczema is a scaly, itchy rash that often affects the face, elbows and knees.
  • When certain substances come into contact with your skin, they may cause a rash called Contact Dermatitis.

What exactly is hives?

Hives is a common skin condition that can occur as a single episode (acute urticaria), or less commonly, it may recur multiple times for longer than 6 weeks (chronic urticaria). Hives are due to the immune system releasing histamine into the skin. This substance causes the redness, swelling and itching. 

What might trigger the appearance of hives?

A trigger can be identified in some cases such as:

  • Infection
  • Allergies
  • Environmental temperature changes
  • Emotional stress
  • Food
  • Medication

What does hives look like?

It usually appears as a series of raised, red bumps that come up within minutes and can resemble mosquito bites or nettle rash.  It can be limited to a small area or span large expanses of the body. Sometimes there is swelling of the face and eyes.

How long might the rash last?

The rash can last from minutes to hours but often disappears without a trace within 24 hours. 

What are the symptoms of hives?

Hives are usually very itchy which can be a source of much frustration. In chronic cases, the symptoms are often worse in the evenings which can affect quality of sleep. If symptoms are severe it may also affect a child’s ability to carry out simple activities in daily life. Some children (and adults) also find the physical appearance of ‘wheals’ distressing.

How do you treat hives?

Most cases of hives get better without treatment and the symptoms can be effectively treated with antihistamines. For long-term hives the treatments aim to relieve symptoms rather than act as a cure. Identifying potential triggers is an important first step though usually a specific cause cannot be found. Available treatments include antihistamines, short courses of steroid tablets and in very severe, chronic cases medications to dampen the body’s immune system (such as ciclosporin) can be beneficial.  

Useful products

Harley Street Dermatologist Dr Friedmann says: “Living with a skin allergy can be difficult, especially when there are so many irritants which can exacerbate symptoms, in everyday household items, like laundry products and cosmetics.

“If you or your family has a skin allergy, the Allergy UK website is a fantastic resource with support, tips and a list of household products that have the Allergy UK Seal of Approval. The Seal of Approval gives reassurance that products hav e been independently tested to prove that they significantly reduce allergen/chemical content and can benefit allergy sufferers.

“Surcare’s Sensitive Capsules, Non-Bio Powder, Liquid Detergent and Washing Up Liquid all have the Allergy UK Seal of Approval too, and they contain no enzymes, dyes, acids or fragrances, so there’s nothing included that would irritate skin.”

For more information about Surcare visit

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