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What is urticaria?
Urticaria is a condition in which there are transient itchy swellings (weals) on the skin.
Angioedema is a deeper form, commonly involving swelling of the eyelids, lips and hands.
What causes urticaria?
Urticaria is thought to result a reaction which may be triggered by any of the following:
- food (e.g. fish, nuts, eggs, milk, tomatoes, strawberries, some preservatives)
- pressure on the skin
Often however, no cause is found and some cases are thought to be autoimmune (where the individual’s antibodies are attacking one’s own cells).
How long does it last?
The acute forms are short lived, whereas chronic forms come and go for more than six weeks. Chronic cases may last up to a year or more and may gradually disappear with time.
How can it be treated?
Affected individuals should avoid triggers especially alcohol, aspirin, ace inhibitors (a type of blood pressure medication) colouring agents and preservatives. Some doctors recommend keeping a food diary and eliminating likely triggers.
Treatment may involve the use of antihistamines, short term oral steroids (second line), and immune suppressants in severe cases. Severe attacks may require adrenaline injection or spray, injectable antihistamines and steroids.