Urticaria – Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Urticaria also called nettle-rash or hives or wheals in a common language, simply means itching with rash and mainly effects the neck, arms, legs and trunk of the children. Medically, urticaria may be defined as skin eruption , which is allergic in origin and is characterized by profound itching, red circular or irregularly shaped eruptions on any part of the body.

Urticaria also called nettle-rash or hives or wheals in a common language, simply means itching with rash and mainly effects the neck, arms, legs and trunk of the children. Urticaria is an allergic reaction pattern of the skin, characterized by eruption of wheals or hives, which are itchy, transient, reddish and edematous swelling of the skin and mucosal surfaces that spread by peripheral extension and assume bizzare patterns on the skin. Wheals are caused by release of histamine and other chemical mediators which are released by mast cells which accumulate in the dermis of the skin as a response to some immunological or non immunological allergic response in the body.

Symptoms

Raised red and white patches appear on the skin. They are accompanied by burning,intense itching, and stinging. Rubbing and scratching usually aggravate the condition. The outbreak of urticaria is sudden and the disease may affect any part or the entire body. The eruptions may be as small as pin heads or as large as a rupee. The eruption may fade in a few minutes or an hour in one place, but may appear in another.

Causes

Urticaria pigmentosa is one of several forms of mastocytosis, which is caused by excessive numbers of inflammatory cells (mast cells) in the skin. Other forms include solitary mastocytoma (a single lesion) and systemic mastocytosis (involvement in organs other than the skin).
Urticaria pigmentosa is most often seen in children, but it can occur in adults as well.
A viral infection such as a cold or ‘flu can trigger an urticarial rash in some people. (You ‘react’ to the virus.) A mild viral infection which causes few other symptoms is probably a common trigger of an urticarial rash that develops without an apparent cause.
Skin contact with ‘sensitizers’ causes a local area of urticaria in some people. For example, chemicals, latex, cosmetics, plants, ointments, nettle stings, etc.
Prevention tips
Try not to overheat.
Cool the affected area with a fan, cold flannel, ice pack or soothing moisturising lotion.
Avoid aspirin and codeine.

Treatment

The main treatment for urticaria is with anti-histamines. These are usually given in oral forms and may need to be given in large or frequent doses to control the symptoms. Short courses of corticosteroids may be needed. If the symptoms are severe, epinephrine shots can be used for immediate, but temporary, relief.
If the cause of the urticaria is known or suspected, such as a food or medication, avoidance of this trigger may resolve the symptoms. In cases of chronic idiopathic urticaria, triggers such as acute infections of any kind (such as the common cold), stress, and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin and ibuprofen, for example), may flare the symptoms.