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Urticaria, also known as hives, is an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps or plaques (wheals) on the skin that appear suddenly -- either as a result of the body's reaction to certain allergens, or for unknown reasons.

Skin tests may be performed to determine the substance to which you are allergic. Routine blood tests are done to determine if a system-wide illness is present.

Urticaria is classified according to its duration.

Acute urticaria:  (< 6 weeks duration, and often gone within hours to days)

Chronic urticaria:  (> 6 weeks duration, with daily or episodic weals)

Hives frequently occur following an infection or as a result of an allergic reaction such as to medication, insect bites,infections, autoimmune conditions or food. Psychological stress, sun & cold temperature, exercise or vibration may also be a trigger. In half of cases the cause remains unknown.

Prevention is by avoiding whatever it is that causes the condition. Treatment options are oral medications and injections .Patch testing may be useful to determine the allergy.

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