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Urticaria or hives, is an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps or plaques (wheals) on the skin that appear suddenly.

Hives usually cause itching, and can also burn or sting. They can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, lips, tongue, throat, or ears. They can last for hours, or up to one day before fading.

Causes
Hives result from the body's reaction to certain allergens, or for unknown reasons.

Allergic hives and angioedema form when, blood plasma leaks out of small blood vessels in the skin in response to histamine (a chemical released from specialized cells along the skin's blood vessels). Allergic reactions, chemicals in certain foods, insect stings, sunlight exposure, or medications can all cause histamine release.

Food Triggers
Common food triggers include shellfish, milk, strawberries, onions, garlic, parsley, beans, potatoes, celery, nuts, spices and food additives, especially Tartrazine (E102).  

Medication (such as aspirin and penicillin), bacteria, animal hair, mould and viral infections can also trigger hives.

Salicylates are natural aspirin-like compounds that can be found in some foods. People sensitive to aspirin may react to these foods. Most fruit, especially berries and dried fruit are high in salicylates, as are some herbs and spices and sweets made of peppermint or liquorice. Nuts and seeds contain moderate amounts. Meat, fish, pulses, grains, dairy products and most vegetables contain low amounts.

A combination of sunlight exposure and eating certain foods, such as buckwheat can also cause hives. On the other hand, beta carotene can help relieve sunlight caused hives. It is the pigment in dark green leafy vegetables and orange fruit and vegetables, such as spinach, carrots and apricots.

Hives sufferers should try and exclude foods suspected of triggering their ailment, in consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. It may also be beneficial to consume foods which inhibit histamine release, such as offal, wheat-germ and pulses.

Treatment
Antihistamine medication is usually needed to treat hives. SANHA does not approve of Allergex tablets in view of its gelatine content. The following are deemed appropriate: Rhineton tablet, Sinumax tablet, Sinumax Allergy Nasal Spray, Sinumax Allergy Sinus Ped Liquid, Sinumax Ped Syrup, Sinutab 3 way tablets, Sinutab Allergy, Congestion & Pain Tablets, Sinutab Nasal Spray, Sinutab ND Tablets, Sinutab Sinus Allergy Tablets, Sinutab Sinus Oral Solution, Sinutab Sinus, Allergy & Congestion tablets, Allergex Non Drowsy Syrup, Allergex Syrup and Deselex.

In severe cases corticosteroids will be needed. These are applied to the skin or taken orally.
 
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