Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illnesses in the US, and over 50 million Americans deal with various types of allergies throughout the year. Allergies come in many forms, and many of them are similar to cold and flu symptoms like coughing and sneezing.

A common form of allergic reaction is urticaria, commonly known as hives. Hives swollen irritated red bumps on your skin which may itch, burn or sting. While people commonly complain about allergies in the spring and fall months, there are a number of things that can cause allergic reactions in the summer.

If you’re dealing with hives or other allergy symptoms, Dr. Reinhard Kage and the Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut have years of experience and expertise treating many different allergies and related conditions.

Understanding hives

When cells in the immune system detect something they interpret as a foreign substance (allergens), the body overreacts and creates histamines. This chemical causes the symptoms common to an allergic reaction like coughing, sneezing and different kinds of inflammation (such as hives). The range of substances that can cause allergic reactions is massive and covers everything from household items to pets and many foods.

Reactions like hives form when your body responds to histamine by leaking blood plasma into the top layer of your skin. They can appear just about anywhere on the body, and can last a few hours or up to a day before they fade. They can appear in small patches or join to form plaques.

Hives and summer allergies

Pollen and ragweed are common triggers of seasonal allergies that are prevalent in the spring and fall respectively. However, pollen is still active in the summer, along with many other allergy triggers. Exposure to certain allergy triggers is especially common in summer, including insects bites and stings, the chlorine in swimming pools, and the smoke from campfires.

While not strictly an allergic reaction, heat hives are also a concern for people who undergo allergic reactions in the summer. In some people, overheating can cause a similar histamine reaction to allergy triggers, causing outbreaks of hives. Heat hives usually disappear about an hour after they show up (though like other hives, they can last up to a day) on the skin, and can be extra troublesome when they combine with other summertime allergies.

Managing allergic reactions

Hives and other allergic reactions can be treated with numerous home remedies, over the counter medicines, and prescription medications. Topical treatments like oatmeal, calamine lotion and aloe vera are often used to soothe the skin as well as reduce inflammation and other symptoms.

Depending on the severity and frequency of outbreaks, you may need to take medication that prevents allergic reactions, rather than focusing on treating symptoms when they occur. Antihistamines are a common treatment, and over-the-counter medications like Allegra, Clarinex and Claritin may be sufficient. If other prescription treatments are necessary, your doctor may recommend histamine blockers, anti-inflammatory medications and immunosuppressants.

Safe practices during the summer to avoid allergic reactions will help to reduce and prevent many cases of hives and other reactions. Avoid allergic triggers wherever possible, and in the case of heat hives, avoid prolonged sun exposure, stay cool when exercising and avoid highly humid areas.

For help dealing with hives, make an appointment with Dr. Kage and the Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut in Manchester or Middletown. Our team wants each and every patient to enjoy the summer.

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