Eastside Medical Associates

Amy Lichtenfeld, MD

Board Certified Allergist-Immunologist & Internist located in Manhattan, New York, NY

Almost everyone experiences temporary hives at some point, but this allergic reaction may be a sign of life-threatening anaphylaxis. Upper East Side, New York City allergist-immunologist and internal medicine physician Dr. Amy Lichtenfeld, treats teenagers through adults with hives and other skin allergies at Eastside Medical Associates. If you have severe or persistent hives, call or book an appointment online today.

Hives Q & A

What are hives?

Hives are itchy welts that appear on your skin. They can range in size from a pinpoint to a dinner plate and develop on any part of your skin. Welts that appear near each other may connect to form even larger hives.

The medical term for hives is urticaria. Welts caused by urticaria may be:

  • Red or flesh-colored
  • Generally oval-shaped
  • Severely itchy

Most hives go away on their own within 24 hours, but a new wave of hives may appear as the old ones fade. Hives that persist longer than 6 weeks are considered chronic.

Sometimes, hives occur during anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that requires emergency treatment.

What is angioedema?

Angioedema is a skin reaction similar to hives, but it involves welts that appear deeper beneath your skin. Angioedema may occur at the same time as hives, or on its own. This reaction usually affects the skin around your lips, cheeks, and eyes.

Signs and symptoms of angioedema include:

  • Large, firm welts
  • Redness and swelling, mainly around the eyes and lips
  • Pain or warmth

Angioedema can cause your eyelids or lips to swell severely. If this happens, you should seek immediate medical care.

What causes hives and angioedema?

Hives and angioedema are most often caused by food or drug allergies. These reactions can also result from several medical conditions, such as a viral infection.

Common triggers of hives and angioedema include:

  • Environmental allergens such as pollen, pet dander, insect stings, and latex
  • Food allergens such as shellfish, nuts, milk, and eggs
  • Medications such as penicillin, aspirin, and ibuprofen
  • Medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, lupus, or hepatitis

Some people may also inherit a genetic predisposition to angioedema.

How do you diagnose and treat hives?

Dr. Lichtenfeld can usually diagnose hives by looking at your skin. To determine the cause of your hives, she thoroughly reviews your medical history and lifestyle habits. She may also perform blood tests or allergy tests.

Once she discovers the cause of your hives, Dr. Lichtenfeld develops an individualized treatment plan, which may include:

  • Avoiding known allergens
  • Taking anti-inflammatory and antihistamine medicines
  • Carrying emergency epinephrine to prevent anaphylaxis
  • Taking immune modulators such as Xolair®

If you’re concerned about severe hives or skin swelling, call Dr. Amy Lichtenfeld or book an appointment online today.