Urticaria is an inflammation of the skin of allergic origin characterised by the appearance of generalised lesions with wheals or bumps, accompanied by intense itching.
The lesions vary in size; they appear suddenly in an outbreak and may affect any part of the body, lasting from minutes up to 24-48 hours. They may occur in an acute outbreak, limited in time, or repeatedly and chronically.
Urticaria is a very common disease. Its name comes from the Latin word for nettle, urtica, similar to the lesions caused by contact with this plant.
Angiooedema or angioneurotic oedema affects the deepest layers of the skin. It manifests as wheals or a whitish inflammation.
It tends to affect areas of the face such as eyelids, the outer ears, the genitals, hands, ankles or feet.
Angiooedema may occur alone or accompanied by urticaria.
What are the causes?
There are multiple causes: foods, medicines, infections (mainly intestinal parasites), the cold, the sun, the heat, pressure, sweating, insect bites from bees or wasps, contact with specific plants or compounds such as latex, among others.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis requires specific study and follow-up provided by your specialist doctor. Your doctor will conduct an exhaustive study based on your clinical history, how the episodes manifest, the associated symptoms and duration of the lesions.
A high percentage of acute and chronic urticarias remain to be of an unknown cause.
How is it treated?
Treatment is provided according to the cause, mainly by applying preventative measures to avoid contact with the triggering agents, and symptomatic treatment.
Symptomatic treatment is directed at alleviating symptoms such as itching and rash through the use of antihistamines and corticosteroids during outbreaks or exacerbation.
What can I do to prevent outbreaks?
- Avoid taking medications if they were not prescribed by a doctor.
- Follow a diet free of preservatives, artificial colours or additives, avoiding packaged foods and drinks. Eat primarily fresh foods.
- Follow a diet free of amines (avoid chocolate and cacao derivatives, alcoholic drinks, shellfish, nuts, pork cold cuts, cured cheeses, tinned food, fish preserves and hot spices).
- Avoid using tight clothing made with synthetic fabrics.
- Use cotton or linen clothes (natural fibres).
- Wash clothing with gentle detergents, rinse well to avoid soap build-up.
- Avoid taking showers with very hot or cold water; have baths and showers with warm water.
- Avoid using irritant soaps or shampoos in daily hygiene. Use of soaps made with oatmeal, without preservatives and perfumes.
- Apply an emollient cream or special oil to moisturise your skin after taking a shower.
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun. Avoid excessive sweating and environments with extreme heat (dry or wet saunas and closed spaces subject to high temperatures). Avoid abrupt changes in temperature.