Urticaria (Hives) in Children

What is urticaria in children?
Urticaria, also commonly called as hives, is a condition in children where many red, itchy, bumpy and swollen areas appears on the skin. The size of the hives can be variable from very small to very large. They can involve any part of the body. Hives go away usually in a day but comes back in a different place. Sometimes, in addition the mucous membranes like tongue and lips also get swollen.

What causes urticaria?
The commonest cause of childhood urticaria is viral infection. Usually the child gets a cough and cold with or without fever and accompanying this or a few days later the child develops hives. This urticaria is not mediated by allergy.

Urticaria can also happen secondary to food allergies. The common food allergies in children are to egg, milk, soy, peanut and tree nuts. The third common cause is certain medicines like pain killers, antibiotics, medicines for epilepsy etc. Sometimes the cause of urticaria may be unknown.
Other causes of hives could be exposure to cold, post exercise, etc.

What is Chronic Urticaria?
Urticaria usually lasts for a short duration of 3-5 days. Sometimes, urticaria persists for more than six weeks and this is called as chronic urticaria. Chronic urticaria in children is usually idiopathic (no cause can be found), but occasionally could be secondary to some physical stimuli. These situations are described as chronic inducible urticaria.

What are the causes of chronic inducible urticaria in children?
Chronic inducible urticaria can be induced by specific physical or environmental stimuli (cold, heat, exercise, pressure, sunlight, vibration, water, etc.).

How is urticaria in children treated?
The treatment of acute urticaria is an anti histamine like cetirizine or similar for 5-7 days. The triggers, if any identified like food or drugs should be strictly avoided.

Children with chronic urticaria require long term anti-histamines medicines. Some children who do not respond to anti-histamines might require additional medicines like cyclosporin or omalizumab.