By Dr Harsh Sharma, DHMS, BHMS
Published April 3, 2014, Last updated October 21, 2016
Urticaria or ‘Hives’ is a common skin trouble that affects a lot of people. It is characterized by a sudden appearance of red rashes. One moment the patient seems to be fine and just the next moment, he or she is covered with rashes or wheals or hives. Itching is almost always a part of this sudden occurence. There may also be burning in the affected area. These eruptions usually settle after some time.
What is Urticaria or Hives
The word ‘urticaria’ is a derivative of the Latin word ‘urtica’. In the Latin language, urtica means nettles, which is a kind of a weed with stinging hairs. The itching, the burning and the stinging that happens in this trouble is similar to the effect of the nettle, although the disease urticaria has nothing to do with the nettles.
Urticaria involves the superficial layer of the skin where edema develops as a result of blood plasma leaking out of the vessels into the extracellular space. A chemical called ‘histamine’ which is released from the mast cells is responsible for the leakage of this blood plasma. Allergic reactions, certain chemicals in foods and drugs can lead to the release of histamine.
Symptoms of Chronic Urticaria or Hives
The characteristic symptom of hives or urticaria is the presence of red rash that tends to itch, burn and sting. Such rashes or wheals can come up on any part of the skin. The rashes or wheals may differ from one patient to the other in their appearance. In some patients, they tend to be linear and in others they are circular. They may be small in size whereas some patients report large sized ones. They may be separate from one another with some normal skin in between or they may coalesce together to look like one large area.
Most of the time, the flare-ups are short lived and self-limiting which means that they subside on their own very soon. They come suddenly, last for a while and fade away on their own. But the itching and stinging that these flare-ups bring in their train are quite irritating and distressful for as long as they remain. Scratching the skin causes still more itching and spreads to adjacent areas on scratching. This pattern is repeated every time, only to go away and then come again unannounced at some other totally unexpected hour.
Cause of Hives or Urticaria
When it comes to understanding the cause of urticaria or hives, one thing we clearly understand is that it is allergic in origin. Having said that, most of the time the patient is unable to find out the offending allergen. Some patients may have allergy to a common food stuff while others may have an allergy to a particular fabric. People have been known to be allergic to wheat, milk, salt or sugar which makes the daily life of very difficult. Still, some people may have an allergy to cold, heat, sun, particular medicinal drugs and stress. A little pressure on the skin can also cause rashes to appear in some patients. This is known as dermographism. Urticaria on exposure to sun is known as solar urticaria. A severe case of allergy in patients can even cause wheezing, difficulty in breathing and also loss of consciousness along with the attendant skin symptoms. Urticaria that is triggered by heat, exercise or emotions is known as cholinergic urticaria.
Role of Homeopathy in the treatment of Urticaria
Hives, being allergic in origin is hardly cured by any allopathic medicine. The commonly used anti allergic medicines can only suppress urticaria for a while only to see the same symptoms return with a vengeance once the effect of the medicine wears off after some hours. Any chronic urticaria patient can vouch for this that the anti allergic medicines are just palliatives; they relieve for a short period of time and nothing else. Opposed to this, the natural homeopathic medicines aim at eradicating the tendency to hives or urticaria completely. They do not suppress the symptoms. The homeopathic remedies try to set the natural immunity back into their original shape so that it does not overreact when coming in contact with any allergen. Some of the commonly used homoeopathic medicines for the treatment of urticaria are Apis, Natrum Mur, Mezereum, Dulcamara and Calcarea Carb. One should know the cause and the modalities of the disease before one can select the right remedy. Once the acute phase is over, there is a need to give some constitutional treatment which will set the immune system right and the allergy gets cured once and for all.