Q. I’ve got a rash – and I’m not sure what it is?

A. You’ve probably all heard the phrase “It brought me out in hives” – but do we know what hives are?

Hives can look like red, raised patches. The rash can also be red spots. Hives can be different sizes and shapes and appear anywhere on the body in both adults and children. The rash is often itchy and sometimes feels like it’s stinging or burning.

Hives occur when something causes high levels of histamine and other chemicals to be released in the skin. It is basically an allergic reaction. The cause of the hives is known as a trigger. Triggers can include:

• food

• pollen and plants

• insect bites and stings

• chemicals

• latex

• dust mites

• heat – (if this is the case, try to work and sleep in a cool room and wear loose, lightweight clothes)

• sunlight, exercise or water

• medicines – (always remember to speak to your GP if you have an allergic reaction)

• infections

• emotional stress

Hives rashes usually settle down within a few minutes to a few days. You can often treat hives yourself, and your pharmacist can give you some expert advice. Visit your pharmacist and explain your symptoms. They’ll probably ask you some questions about what the trigger may be – and will then give you advice about antihistamine tablets to bring down your hives rash.

Tell your pharmacist if you have a long-term condition – you might not be able to take antihistamines. They also may not be suitable for young children.