Interview transcription:

We interviewed Dr Penelope Pratsou to learn about hives and what can cause them.

What are hives and what causes hives?

Penelope Pratsou: Hives, also known as urticaria, are itchy red lumps that can appear under your skin. They can come on at the drop of a hat and leave you as quickly as they came on. But they can come and go on different parts of your body. Other people know them as nettle rash. It is similar to nettle rash and essentially what it is, is the release of histamine into the skin, from specific cells. In most cases, that’s simply a reactive rash that can come on as a result of something else going on with your body. We broadly divide them into two categories, the acute hives and the more chronic hives.

The first step to feeling in charge of your skin is to book an initial consultation


Penelope Pratsou: In an acute situation, you might have something as simple as a cough or a sore throat, and it tends to be an upper-respiratory-tract infection that can bring the hives on. It’s essential to make sure that you’ve not just started any medication that could have resulted in this. We would check for food allergies in a child that has hives, but not so much in an adult.

With the chronic condition, when it tends to grumble on after three months, then a lot of the time, we don’t find the cause. That’s what’s known as chronic spontaneous urticaria. It just comes on spontaneously; there’s no specific cause. In other situations, there could be a trigger such as pressure, exercise or sweat induced hives. Or it could be extremes of temperature in certain conditions.

If you notice that you have any of the symptoms or conditions that we’ve just discussed, we invite you to book a consultation with Dr Penelope Pratsou. She’ll be able to assess your condition and give you a personalised treatment plan.

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About the author

Dr Penelope Pratsou | Consultant Dermatologist

MBChB, MRCP (UK) (Dermatology)

I’m Dr Penelope Pratsou, a skilled independent Consultant Dermatologist based in Berkshire. I have specialist expertise in the diagnosis and management of all skin cancers, and in performing mole checks. I’m a trained skin surgeon and remove skin cancers, moles, skin tags, cysts and warts.

I also have invaluable experience in dealing with all skin conditions, from the common skin complaints of acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, to the rarer and more complex skin problems, having seen it all through years of NHS work.

After I obtained my Membership to the Royal College of Physicians, I undertook rigorous specialist training in dermatology, before being appointed as a Consultant Dermatologist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading. There, I helped set up and lead a busy clinic for the diagnosis and treatment of suspected skin cancer. I was also actively involved in supervising and training both dermatology and GP trainees.

Alongside my increasingly busy private practice, I have maintained an NHS practice in Oxford in order to continue to engage with challenging cases and to develop my specialist interest in skin allergy.