Allergies are very common, and they're one of the most common medical problems that children face. Allergies cause respiratory reactions, skin reactions, and even life-threatening reactions like anaphylaxis. If your child has a skin reaction to an allergen, you may notice hives on their skin. Here's what you need to know about this allergic symptom.

What are hives?

Hives are red welts that develop on the skin in response to an allergen. These welts can be itchy, but they can also lead to a stinging or burning feeling. They can develop anywhere on the skin. The size of these hives can vary quite a bit, so your child may develop very tiny hives, or hives that are so large that they connect with each other, forming a large red area.

Hives usually go away within 24 hours, but they can sometimes last for as long as 6 weeks and become a chronic problem. 

What kinds of allergens cause hives?

A wide range of allergens can lead to hives. As you may have guessed, hives can be caused by things that come in contact with your child's skin, like latex gloves, lotions, soaps, or insect bites, but allergens don't have to touch your child's skin to cause a skin reaction. Eating foods like citrus, peanuts, or shellfish can cause a skin reaction, and some medications can also cause this reaction. You will need to take your child to the doctor for allergy testing to know what exactly is causing the hives since the cause can be hard to determine by yourself.

Are hives dangerous?

Hives aren't dangerous on their own, and are more of an annoyance than anything else. The danger lies in the other reactions that can sometimes accompany exposure to an allergen, like difficulty breathing, dizziness, or even anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions are unpredictable, and the substance that only causes hives now can cause more serious problems in the future. For this reason, hives need to be taken seriously.

How are hives treated?

Your child's doctor may recommend using over-the-counter antihistamines to get rid of the hives. If that isn't enough, the doctor may also prescribe stronger treatments like oral corticosteroids. Once the hives are gone, the focus will shift to figuring out what caused the reaction and avoiding that substance in the future.

Allergies are a common problem among children, and hives are only one of many symptoms of an allergic reaction. If your child experiences hives, talk to a clinic, like Asthma and Allergy Clinic or others, or talk to your doctor about doing allergy testing to figure out the cause.