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Hives Vs Rashes: All You Need to Know

While skin rashes and hives are quite common and can baffle us by appearing out of nowhere, we often get confused between the two. While this is common, it is very important to identify the skin reaction to find a suitable solution. Allergic reactions can be life-threatening as they can lead to an internal outbreak affecting breathing and digestion. Hence, identifying the allergen is crucial for treatment as well as future cases of the outbreak. Here are some basic facts about hives and rashes that will help you find the difference between the two:

What are Hives?

Hives, also known as urticaria, is an outbreak of swollen and pale red bumps on the skin. These appear in the body due to some allergic reaction or for unknown reasons. Hives affect about 20% of the people at least once in their lifetime and disappear within a few days in most cases. These can appear in various shapes and sizes, and also appear together as plaques. The causes of hives are usually very elusive. Hives are more common in women than in men. The main issue with hives is that they change shapes rapidly and move around the body within hours.

What are the types of Hives? What Causes Hives?

Hives are typically caused due to histamine release. Insect stings, reaction to allergens, chemicals in food substances, sunlight exposure, certain types of drugs and medications - any of these could cause an outbreak of hives. These are called ‘triggers’. Some common triggers are pollen, insect bites, food, chemicals, latex, dust, heat, emotional stress, and even sunlight. Clearly, the list is extremely exhaustive and it is difficult to identify the cause of hives.

The common types of hives outbreaks:

1. Acute urticaria: This resolves by 6 to 8 weeks and is caused due to food, medications or other allergens. Some common food allergens are nuts, fish, eggs, and milk. Drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen also cause allergic reactions. 2. Chronic urticaria: This characterizes hives lasting for more than 6 weeks and is a sign of underlying disease like thyroid, hepatitis or cancer.

How to get rid of Hives?

Hives usually resolve themselves by 24 hours. Some simple home remedies you can try is to use a cold compress or wash the area with anti-itch solutions. Ensure that you make a note of places you went to and foods you consumed to trace your allergen.

What are Rashes?

A rash does not mention any specific diagnosis but is used to describe any inflammation or discoloration that occurs on the skin. The following indicates the presence of a rash: blister formation, skin discoloration, itchiness, bumps on skin or hives, scaling and skin ulceration. Hives are a type of rash.

What are the types of rashes? What causes them?

There are different types of rashes, and each of them has a different cause:

1. Atopic dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis or eczema is a chronic condition that leads to itchy and red skin. These rashes often appear as patches on hands, feet, neck and subside after flares.

2. Seborrheic dermatitis

This is the most commonly occurring rash condition in adults and is characterized by red itchy eruptions in the scalp, forehead, brows, and cheeks. In the case of infants, it often appears as a diaper rash.

3. Contact dermatitis

Contact Dermatitis is caused due to direct contact with the allergen. Irritant contact dermatitis (A) is caused by products like chemicals and cleaning solutions; these products cause a dry or flaky reaction in everyone. Allergic contact dermatitis causes itchy and red rashes to specific materials like nickel etc.

4. Heat Rash (miliaria)

Heat rash or miliaria is caused due to obstruction of sweat due to humid weather or due to thick clothing. One strand of these, commonly known as prickly heat, is characterized by red and prickly outbreak on skin. Heat rash can also manifest as miliaria crystalline (B) which appears as clear and fluid-filled bumps. These rashes can be cured when the area is cooled through a cool bath or a cold compress.

5. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is characterized by the growth of rough and scaly skin that occurs due to a longer life cycle of the skin. The extra skin causes the formation of red scales for long periods and can be very painful. Light therapy and topical medication help to control this condition.

6. Rosacea

This is a long term chronic condition in adults that causes redness on the face and small bumps.

How to control Rashes?

There are simple home remedies to treat rashes. One method is to use a mild unscented cleanser with warm water to clean the area. Always pat the area dry; never rub an area with rash using a cloth or cover it with clothing. Avoid scratching the rash at all costs. If the condition does not subside, try an oatmeal bath or use an over the counter hydrocortisone cream. Stop using cosmetics that could have triggered the reaction. While these are suggestions to identify hives or rashes as well as treat them at home, a doctor's opinion and prescription are always recommended. If there is any sign of dizziness or breathing difficulty, consult the doctor immediately. While such situations are rare, following these simple methods and keeping yourself Informed about your skin can help you stay away from hives and allergies successfully.

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