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​Hives (urticaria or nettle rash) are a common skin reaction, but the cause often remains unknown. Take over-the-counter antihistamines to alleviate the symptoms.The condition is considered acute when it has been present for less than two months. The reaction may be triggered by a common virus or allergy. Hives may also flare up after physical exertion or drinking alcohol or having certain foodstuffs. Hives is easy to identify as in no other condition raised bumps flare up and disappear quite as quickly.

Hives, also known as urticaria or nettle rash, is a raised rash on the skin, which as the name indicates, looks like a rash caused by nettles. The size of the bumps may vary from 2 millimetres 20 centimetres. The rash travels from one location on the skin to the next. The rash comes and goes on its own in a couple of hours or a day at the most. If the bumps persist for more than 24 hours, your symptoms may be caused by another skin condition.Initially the rash is very itchy. The itching eases off once the rash starts to get better.Usually there is no raised temperature, unless the rash is associated with another infection. A severe bout of hives may include stomach symptoms. In addition to the nettle rash, you may develop a painful, firm, localised swelling, called angio-oedema (allergic swelling) where your lips, tongue, eyelids or limbs may swell, too.Hives do not transmit from person to person.

To control the itching, you can take antihistamine by mouth available from pharmacies without prescription. Pharmacy staff will help you select the right product, if necessary. You can continue taking antihistamines as long as the symptoms persist, at least for two to three weeks. Skin creams are usually not effective in treating hives. Antihistamines are not effective against angio-oedema.

​You can wait for a couple of months to see if the symptoms disappear, if antihistamine curbs the number of bumps or stops them altogether. If you symptoms persist, seek medical advice.You should seek medical advice, if

  • your symptoms include difficulty breathing.

  • sudden swelling in the face, tongue or throat.