Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Going about your day as a normal student, you start to notice a spot on your arm that constantly keeps itching. Getting back to your room you take a look at it and noticed there's a large skin toned welt. You decide to take a shower and as you're putting on lotion, another appears on your stomach, and another on your neck. You get it checked out and you are told you have hives, medically known was Urticaria.
Urticaria are skin welts that itch. They appear on smoothly elevated areas of the skin and come in various shapes and sizes. Urticaria has the tendency to change sizes and move around rapidly and disappear from one part of the body and reappear on another. They typically last  no longer than 24 hours. Urticaria can be caused by exposure to certain foods, medication, and substances. According to, about 20% of all people will develop urticaria at one point in their  life. Urticaria  appears more frequently on women than men.

A further stage of hives is  Angioedema. Angrioedema is something that accompanies hives, and causes deeper swelling in the skin. It causes swelling of the lips, eyelids, hands, etc. This can actually be life threatening when the tongue is swelled due to the fact that it can block airways.

Figure 1. Image of Urticaria
About a year ago, I developed the symptoms of hives. It seemed like every evening i would start itching and within an hour my whole upper body would be  covered with hives. The first place i would always notice it was on my stomach and forearms. Some days it got really bad and stopped me from going out on weekends. My neck would be covered with elevated spots with blanched centers, that were very visible. I got checked out by several hospitals and no one could really tell me what was causing these hives. I already knew what I was allergic to and stayed away from them so i knew it couldn't be allergens. The doctor prescribed four different medications to take daily in order to stop the hives. At first it seemed like they weren't helping but then after about two weeks the hives cleared out.

At times, the causes of Urticaria are not known. Doctors may run several blood tests and still not pin point exactly the cause of this epidemic. Some people are prescribed antihistamines , but turns out it does not always work. Although a particular welt may last no longer than 24 hours, people can live with Urticaria for up to two years or more.

 A new study showed that the asthma drug Xolair maybe a safe and effective treatment for people with long term Urticaria.. Thomas Casale took on this study and said "In the high-dose group, for example, patients had a clear drop in their symptoms in a week. And that was apparent at two weeks for the [second-highest dose]. So it not only worked, but it worked fairly rapidly,"   By  the end of treatment, 53% of patients receiving the high dose were hives free.Although they don't always know the cause for Urticaria, scientists are working towards cures so patients don't have to wait for it to clear up.

Posted by Barbara Afogho (Group A)


  1. Great post! It was really interesting to read how you have a personal connection to the subject matter you're interesting in blogging about. I was wondering if you knew more about the asthma drug Xolair and why, physiologically, a drug that is supposed to target airways had such a strong positive effect on an allergic or dermatological condition.

    1. Xolair is an antibody that helps decrease allergic responses in the body. It is used to treat moderate to severe asthma that is caused by allergies in people who are at least 12 years of age, but is not a rescue medicine for treating an asthma attack. It is usually prescribed to patients after other medications have failed.

  2. I really liked this post, I thought it was an informative look at a topic that people don't necessarily like to talk about. I am curious though, are there different variations of Urticaria (either more or less severe) other than Angioedema?

    Posted by: David Rains

    1. Yes there are a few others. There is Aquagenic urticaria that occurs on contact with water.
      Theres Cholinergenic urticaria that results from a rise in core body temperature, and occurs with exercise, sweating, and passive warming, as well as elevated air temperatures. There is also Dermatographism, which is a wheal-and-flare response to rubbing or firm stroking of the skin.
      -Barbara Afogho

  3. I enjoyed the personal addition to this post. I was wondering, how did this study with Xolair even begin? Was it possibly that an asthma patient had hives, switched to Xolair by chance and notice it helped with the hives? How does this drug work effectively on two different body systems in relation to completely different conditions? Very interesting.

    - Carolyn McDonagh

    1. I'm not exactly certain about how the study even begin but here is a link that explains how the study went about.

      To answer your other questions, Xolair is an antibody which are proteins that the body produces torecognize foreign substances such as bacteria Once they recognize a foreign substance, the antibodies attach to receptors on two types of cells in tissues and blood. These cells then release chemicals that cause an allergic reaction that leads to inflammation. Xolair blocks the receptors on the surfaces of the mast cells and basophils that the antibodies attaches to, preventing antibodies from attaching to the cells. As a result, the cells do not release their chemicals, and the allergic reaction and inflammation are prevented.

  4. I was surprised to read that hives could last up to two years! I also liked that you used the medical term rather than the common name for the title, which made me curious to know more.
    Posted by Meghan Harrington

  5. The description of what is Urticaria was explained really well. I don't know much about hives but this helped me understand more of its causes. I was left a little curious towards the end about how an asthma drug helps treat hives. Its very interesting, makes me want to know more about it.
    Posted by Jazmin Granadeno