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What Causes Hives on Babies?

Small cluster of hives.
Too much sunshine has been known to cause hives on babies.
An allergic reation to foods such as peanut butter is one of the top causes of hives on babies.
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  • Written By: Matthew Brodsky
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2014
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Hives on babies are swollen skin or red skin on the skin of newborns and infants. They are also known as welts or urticaria. For different babies and in different instances, these hives might not look the same. Typically, however, they involve an area of the skin that is raised and which is redder than the skin around it. Some of the most common causes of baby welts include food allergies, too much sunshine, certain medications, and infections.

One of the top causes of hives on babies is allergic reactions to foods, such as peanut butter or wheat products. In more serious cases, the allergic reaction can lead to more than raised welts or swollen skin. A baby could suffer vomiting or diarrhea or even a restriction of their windpipe or swelling of their tongue. He might then need immediate medical care. Other foods that can cause hives on babies or more serious reactions include other nuts, milk, soy, and eggs.

A problem with uncovering allergic reactions is that they might not be immediately obvious. For instance, parents might not notice exactly which food the baby eats that gives him skin hives. It is recommended that parents keep a diary of exactly what their babies eat and when. If an allergic reaction occurs, then they will be able to better pinpoint which food is causing the skin hives on their baby.

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Foods are not the only common cause of hives on babies. Skin reactions can occur because of additives in babies' meals, or because of the medicines they are taking. One such food additive is the artificial food coloring called number 5, or tartrazine. Some medicines that cause allergic reactions include sulfa drugs and certain antibiotics. Parents should also be aware that bug bites, certain infections and too much stress or exercise can cause reactions as well.

Whatever the cause of the hives, they can last for hours to days. Rare cases can even last months. They are generally caused when a baby's immune system overreacts to certain allergens, such as the food, medicine or other cause mentioned above. The allergens cause the baby's body to release chemicals called histamines, which then create the red skin and raised hives.

One of the first things parents can try to do for babies with skin hives is to give them a bath as soon as the irritation is detected. If the hives and itching persist, or if more dangerous symptoms, such as trouble breathing, occur, parents should contact their baby's pediatrician. The doctors will be able to prescribe an antihistamine or other medication or suggest an over-the-counter remedy.

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