Hives, I’m happy to tell you, aren’t dangerous, but they sure are annoying because they are so very, very itchy. The medical term for hives is urticaria, but a lot of people just call them wheals or welts. The bottom line is they are very itchy bumps. They can vary in size from a small pea to as large as your palm, the color is usually skin colored, or sometimes they’re a little bit pink, and slightly raised--almost like a plaque. They can vary in shape from round, to oval, or even linear, but the most characteristic part of hives is the amount of time that they last, because they come and go frequently. They can last for as short as twenty minutes, or an hour or less, maybe even two hours. When one goes away another one comes. And, usually there are many cycling at the same time. But if your bumps last for a couple of days, than they’re not hives. Hives usually represent allergic reactions to either foods or medications, and the most common foods that cause them are tomatoes, nuts, shellfish, and the most common medications that cause it are antibiotics, especially penicillin… but there are literally thousands of medications that can cause hives. In terms of treatment, the most important thing is if you’ve recently started a new medication in the last week, or ten days, then discontinue it and of course, inform your physician. For treatment, we use antihistamines. Over-the-counter antihistamines, like Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton or even Claritin, are helpful. The first group can be sedating. Claritin is not sedating. And Allegra which is available by prescription, also is not sedating. If your hives last more than a week, despite treating them with antihistamines, then it’s time to see your doctor, for two reasons. First of all, for more effective treatment, since they’re probably driving you crazy with the itching, and second of all, to make sure that there isn’t anything more important going on than just a mild, allergic reaction that’s causing your hives.