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Hives or “Urticaria” are raised welts on the skin that are surrounded by areas of redness. They are extremely itchy and the swelling itself is caused by the body’s release of a chemical named histamine. This happens when you are exposed to something or have eaten something that does not agree with you. The reaction can take place immediately or up to three hours following ingestion.

In sensitive people their immune cells over-react to these foreign substances and the cells release histamine and other chemicals which in turn create the allergy symptoms such as hayfever, eczema, sinusitis and skin rashes. Some severe allergies can in fact cause intense swelling of the face and throat (oedema), blocking a person’s airway and creating a potentially life threatening situation.

A common cause of urticaria is caused by a reaction to medication and many people with long-term or chronic urticaria are very often sensitive to aspirin, penicillin or antibiotics. If you do find that you are allergic to these or any other medications then you probably ought to decide whether or not you continue taking it, after proper discussion with your doctor.

Many foods can also often cause reactions, particularly in children. Most likely to bring on a reaction are milk, nuts, fish, eggs and beans. However, avoiding these foods does not necessarily solve the problem on its own. It is also very important to ensure that the gut is healthy and that waste elimination takes place efficiently. If your digestion is under par then your gut’s immune system remains vulnerable and cannot perform as it should.

Our food is also increasingly being contaminated with chemicals used which are all too readily used to flavour, colour, stabilise and preserve it. For sensitive people these chemicals can cause serious problems as their immune systems simply cannot deal with them and an allergic reaction is produced in the form of hives. Not only can hives appear but oedema (or water retention) can also occur, causing puffy bags under the eyes or general water retention and swelling elsewhere in the body.

The best way to avoid ingesting these chemicals is to concentrate on eating the freshest food possible to help reduce the possible dangers of these additives. Eating organic vegetable and meat produce is a way of ensuring that you consume food that is not loaded with chemicals. Studies have shown that additive-free diets are extremely helpful to individuals that regularly suffer from hives and can provide welcome relief of symptoms.