Angioedema (Giant Hives)

What is Angioedema?

Angioedema is a kind of swelling that occurs in the deep part of the skin’s inner layer and below. Also, it could become severe. Sometimes, this swelling occurs alongside the appearance of hives. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as “giant hives.”

Hives are itchy, raised red welts that develop on the surface of your skin. Usually, it involves only the two skin layers. Another word for Hives is Urticaria.

Furthermore, an allergic reaction or intolerance to food, a side effect or allergy to a medication, or an allergen in the surrounding environment, like pollen, pet dander, and venom from insect bites can cause both angioedema and hives.

In very rare situations, the swelling can be a symptom of a more serious health condition. An example of such a health condition is non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma. Some parts of the body, like the eyelids, lips, and tongue, are more prone to angioedema than others.

Again, there are also cases where it is passed from a parent to a child through genetic transmission. This condition is known as hereditary angioedema. Hereditary angioedema has various causes than acquired angioedema. However, in either case, the symptoms one has and the treatment approach will be the same.

In addition, Angioedema might be part of a serious medical condition. When the cause is an acute allergic reaction, chances for recovery are very favorable if it is treated properly. But, if one has only mild angioedema, it might fade away on its own without any therapy.

Symptoms of Angioedema

Swelling with a red-colored rash beneath the surface of the skin is the most common symptom of angioedema. It could occur in a local area on or near the feet, hands, eyes, or lips.

In more serious scenarios, this swelling can spread to other parts of the body. Swelling and welts on the skin surface may or may not follow this health condition.

Additional symptoms might include abdominal cramping. People with angioedema may experience a swollen throat, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing in rare cases. Also, it may or may not itch.

If you’re having trouble breathing, go to an emergency room as quickly as you can. It could be a sign of a serious medical condition that requires prompt treatment.

Causes of Angioedema

Allergic reactions usually lead to acute angioedema. Your body releases histamine when you have an acute allergic reaction. This is what makes your blood vessels dilate and leak fluid.

Some of these allergens can trigger angioedema:

  • insect bites
  • pollen
  • poison oak or ivy
  • latex
  • animal dander
  • medication
  • certain types of foods

In addition, there are some medications that can cause non-allergic angioedema.

Also, as a result of infections or illnesses, like lupus (SLE) or leukemia, Angioedema may also develop. These would be examples of acquired angioedema.

Parents can pass this health condition to their children. This usually happens in people who have a family history of the condition, due to an inherited genetic mutation.

Who Is At Risk?

There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing angioedema. Some of these factors include:

  • a previous occurrence of angioedema or hives
  • a previous allergic reaction
  • a family history of angioedema or hives
  • sudden temperature changes
  • stress or anxiety
  • certain medical conditions


For diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms and past medical history. During this exam, your doctor will examine your areas of swelling and your welts, if there are any. Also, they might listen to your breathing to find out if your throat has been affected.

Furthermore, it’s important to tell your doctor if you’ve had any recent exposure to certain substances that have previously triggered an allergic reaction in you. This could help your doctor determine the exact cause of your reaction.

Again, your doctor will carry out a series of blood tests if he suspects hereditary or acquired angioedema. These tests may include:

The aim of these tests is to measure the levels or function of certain proteins in the blood. Abnormal results can also be linked to health problems related to underlying autoimmune disease.


People who have mild symptoms may not require treatment. However, those with moderate or severe symptoms might need certain medications to help relieve the intense swelling.

Some of these medicines can include:

  • epinephrine, if due to acute allergic reaction
  • antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec), if due to an allergic reaction or angioedema where the cause is unknown
  • glucocorticosteroid, such as prednisone or Solu-Medrol if due to acute allergic reaction

The available treatment options specifically for hereditary or acquired angioedema include the following:

  • purified human C1 esterase inhibitor
  • fresh frozen plasma
  • ecallantide
  • icatibant

There are certain home remedies that may also help relieve symptoms. These include:

  • applying cool, wet compresses to help soothe your skin and prevent scratching
  • wearing loose cotton clothing to prevent further skin irritation

Additionally, if a medication is causing you to have angioedema, your doctor might insist that you stop taking the suspected medication and instead switch you to something else.

Long-term Outlook for People With Angioedema

In a lot of cases, angioedema is a harmless condition that disappears within a few days.

However, it can be dangerous when the swelling is severe and occurs near the throat. This is because a swollen throat or tongue can block your airway and make it very difficult for you to breathe.

Additionally, severe angioedema could be due to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening, severe acute allergic reaction. In such very serious cases, what the person requires is emergency treatment.


Firstly, avoiding known and suspected allergens is the best way to prevent allergic angioedema. Also, you should try to avoid any known triggers that have caused it for you in the past.

It is very important that you take these preventive measures. This is because they can help reduce your risk of having another episode in the future.

Does this article meet your immediate needs? If yes, leave us a response in the comment box below letting us know how we were able to help.


If no, also leave a response on the comment box to express your concern or ask a question and we will get back to you as soon as possible.




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Eseoghene Ovwero

Eseoghene Ovwero

Eseoghene Ovwero is a Web Content Developer with great writing skills. You can connect with him through his social media handles.

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