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Is That a Bee in My Bonnet or the Whole Hive?

Can you imagine waking up on the morning of a big meeting only to find yourself covered in itchy raised bumps from head to toe? You have been stung by hives!

“…red bumpy eruptions that can occur anywhere on the body.”

Hives are very common. They are red bumpy eruptions that can occur anywhere on the body. When they occur on their own, they are annoying but not dangerous. Hives sometimes occur in association with other allergic symptoms like wheezing, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or swelling around the lips or eyes. When associated with these other symptoms, hives may be a sign of a more dangerous reaction known as anaphylaxis.

There are many causes for hives. They may be triggered by an allergy- causing substance such as a food. Nuts, eggs and shellfish are common triggers. Viral infections and physical exposures, such as heat or cold, may be triggers too. A less common trigger is exercise. It’s not always possible to determine the cause and allergy testing doesn’t always help. A meticulous history of any new triggers in the two days before the onset of the rash can be helpful.

Antihistamines can reduce the itching and the appearance of the rash. Some non-drowsy alternatives are available over the counter. Calamine lotion or an oatmeal bath can help with the itching. Many episodes of hives will resolve on their own. If an allergic trigger is identified, it’s best to avoid it. If the rash persists, seek help and consider testing to help find a trigger.

Occasionally hives occur chronically without any explanation. With help from your physician and possibly consultation with an allergist, even these ornery chronic hives can be managed.


Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and proud grandmother of three! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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