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Byline: Miriam Stoppard

Urticaria, which is also known as nettle rash or hives, is an intensely itchy rash that may affect the whole of the body or just a small area of skin.

It's an allergic reaction to various substances, including foods, drugs and stings. The rash consists of raised, red areas and sometimes white lumps.

The red areas usually vary considerably in size and may merge to involve very large areas of skin.

Urticaria comes and goes. Typically it lasts for only a few minutes or hours and there may be one or two attacks. But sometimes it recurs for several months (chronic urticaria).

It may occur along with angioedema, which is swelling of the face, a serious allergic reaction.

Urticaria is sometimes an early symptom of anaphylaxis, which is a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction to something.

What are the causes?

The tendency to develop urticaria may run in families.

Urticaria may be an allergic reaction to a food, such as shellfish, fruits and nuts.

It may be due to a drug allergy.

It may be due to an allergy to plants.

It may develop after an insect bite or a sting by a wasp or a bee.

What might be done?

A one-off bout of urticaria generally disappears without treatment within a few hours. Chronic urticaria may take several weeks or months to clear up.

Over-the-counter products such as calamine lotion and antihistamine tablets may help relieve itching.

If the symptoms persist or recur, consult your doctor. A skin prick test will identify the substances to which you're allergic.

When the offending substance has been identified, avoid it completely.
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 9, 2013
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