Hives in children
You give your child a big juicy strawberry to eat, he goes out to play then returns a few moments later, with reddish bumps and patches on his arms, face, and neck. He’s scratching himself uncontrollably and crying because the welts are itchy. Your child might be suffering from an allergic condition known as hives.
What are Hives?
Hives (urticaria) are raised itchy patches on the skin that turn into swollen red welts when triggered by certain substances or situations. When triggered, hives in children occur anywhere on the body and vary in size and shape. Sometimes, hives can be so small that they can be mistaken for a mosquito bite and another time they can be as big as a dinner plate.
In a matter of hours, hives can change locations repeatedly. In one instant a bunch of hives might be on the child’s face and then they might disappear. A few hours later, more hives might appear on the child’s arms.
Urticaria usually happens when a child is exposed to triggers of hives such as specific foods and situations. When a child is exposed to a trigger, certain cells in the body release histamine and other hormones. These substances cause fluid to leak from blood vessels into the affected area of the skin. The skin swells and bulge (often resulting in redness or skin-colored) producing welts or blotches. It is these welts or hives, which cause swelling and itchiness.
Types of Hives
Hives in children usually start as mild and harmless but overexposure to triggers can be lead to severe symptoms and may require urgent medical attention. There are two types of urticaria namely:
Acute urticaria- this happens when the itchy rash disappears with six weeks. It is mild and normally harmless.
Chronic urticaria- this is typically itchy and persists for more than six weeks. It occurs almost daily and lasts less than 24 hours without leaving a scar or a bruise. Chronic hives occur when the body immune system begins to attack its own tissues- a condition known as an autoimmune reaction.
Where Do I Get Hives?
A child can get hives because of different reasons. Sometimes the cause of hives in children cannot be determined. This condition is called chronic idiopathic urticaria. The frequent cause of hives in children is allergic reactions. Allergic triggers can be anything like certain foods (such as milk, shrimp, shellfish, wheat, eggs, berries, and nuts), insect stings and bites and medications such as certain antibiotics.
Other causes of urticaria in children include:
- Exposure to cold
- Sun exposure
- Anxiety, stress or nervousness
- Infections caused by viruses
In some cases, hives treatment may not be necessary since the symptom are usually mild and disappears within few days. However, for persistent symptoms, taking your child to an allergist will be the best option. Your allergist may want to diagnose the child to determine the cause of hives. Once the cause has been determined, your allergist may recommend antihistamines for hives treatment. Antihistamines work by blocking the effect of histamines so as to impede the symptoms. Antihistamines are available by prescription or over the counter and can be taken as one or with a combination of others.
If hives in children become severe, a temporary treatment with prednisone-an immune modulator or a corticosteroid medication such as prednisolone may be required to help reduce the severity of the symptoms
If the child’s reactions include swelling of tongue or lips, or they have trouble breathing, then the best treatment your allergist may prescribe is epinephrine (adrenaline).