Hives versus Rashes: Know the Difference

Spring offers a chance for our skin to breathe and renew itself. With your skin exposed, effects of airborne and contact irritants in the form of hives or rashes will occur if you have overly sensitive skin. These irritants come in the form of pollens, substances you are allergic to or semi-poisonous plants like poison ivy. It is important to note the difference between hives and rashes, as they mean different things for your body and are treated in different ways. Read on to explore the differences in hives and rashes and how to distinguish between the two skin irritations.


Spot the Difference

Medically known as urticaria, hives are red, raised and itchy patches of skin.  Hives can be found on the neck, chest and any other areas exposed to the trigger irritant. Cases of acute hives can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. However, some suffer from chronic hives which may last on and off for months or years. Hives are also connected to angioedema, which is the swelling of the deeper layers of the skin.

Know the Cause

Hives are typically triggered by irritants or allergens that come into contact with the skin, however it is difficult to determine the origin of a case of hives. Certain drugs, foods and bugs that you are allergic to may also cause a reaction. Even temperature, sunlight and exercise will help determine whether or not you will develop hives.

Treating Hives

When experiencing acute hives, apply cool, wet compresses to the area to relieve some of the heat. To avoid flair-ups, keep indoor temperatures low and use a gentle detergent. If you suffer from chronic hives, talk to your dermatologist about the number of treatments he or she can prescribe. Most commonly, treatment includes antihistamines or corticosteroids, which help calm the itch and soothe  the affected areas.


Spot the Difference

The most common type of rash is eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. This is a condition that causes your skin to become itchy and red.  An eczema flare-up is different from a hives rash in that eczema flare-ups have fluid in their bumps and crust over when you try to scratch them. Symptoms also include dryness of skin, itchiness at night, red or brownish patches and scaly, cracked skin. Eczema is a chronic condition, unlike hives, and appears periodically.

Know the Cause

A rash is not a diagnosis of a condition, but a symptom of something more concerning. Eczema, poison ivy and athlete’s foot are all conditions that affect the skin’s ability to protect itself. This also decreases the skin’s effectiveness to retaining moisture, thus causing cracked, dry patches. In your skin’s lessened ability to protect itself, it becomes more vulnerable to environmental factors like changes in weather and exposure to allergens.

Treating Rashes

There are many ways to treat a rash. The simplest way is to use gentle products and make sure your skin is clean. Rinse exposed skin, change clothes and moisturize after a few hours outdoors. Eczema rashes often flair-up in the outdoors, as allergens, pollens and warmer temperatures are harsh on vulnerable skin. It is imperative to understand your triggers and the best ways to avoid them. You should make regular trips to your dermatologist to monitor the health of your skin – a dermatologist recommends more effective treatment options made specifically for you and can prescribe medications like antihistamines or soothing creams.

It is important to know what is ailing your skin to get the help you need. Whether it’s a rash or hives or you just don’t know where to start, visit the dermatologists Anne Arundel Dermatology today. The experienced staff can get you the help you need in no time. Call Anne Arundel Dermatology at 443-351-3376 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.

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