Urticaria: Evaluation and Treatment



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Am Fam Physician. 2011 May 1;83(9):1078-1084.

  Patient information: See related handout on hives, written by the author of this article.

Urticaria involves intensely pruritic, raised wheals, with or without edema of the deeper cutis. It is usually a self-limited, benign reaction, but can be chronic. Rarely, it may represent serious systemic disease or a life-threatening allergic reaction. Urticaria has a lifetime prevalence of approximately 20 percent in the general population. It is caused by immunoglobulin E– and nonimmunoglobulin E–mediated mast cell and basophil release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators. Diagnosis is made clinically. Chronic urticaria is usually idiopathic and requires only a simple laboratory workup unless elements of the history or physical examination suggest specific underlying conditions. Treatment includes avoidance of triggers, although these can be identified in only 10 to 20 percent of patients with chronic urticaria. First-line pharmacotherapy for acute and chronic urticaria is nonsedating second-generation antihistamines (histamine H1 blockers), which can be titrated to larger than standard doses. First-generation antihistamines, histamine H2 blockers, leukotriene receptor antagonists, and brief corticosteroid bursts may be used as adjunctive treatment. More than one-half of patients with chronic urticaria will have resolution or improvement of symptoms within one year.

Urticaria is a common condition identified and treated in the primary care setting. It is characterized by well-circumscribed, intensely pruritic, raised wheals (edema of the superficial skin) typically 1 to 2 cm in diameter, although they can vary in size and may coalesce; they also can appear pale to brightly erythematous (Figures 1 through 3). Urticaria can occur with or without angioedema, which is a localized, nonpitting edema of the subcutaneous or interstitial tissue that may be painful and warm. It can cause marked impairment in work, school, and home functioning. Although typically benign and self-limited, urticaria and angioedema can be symptoms of anaphylaxis, or may indicate a medical emergency or, rarely, substantial underlying disease.

SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Clinical recommendation Evidence rating References Comments

An extensive workup is not recommended for diagnosing a cause of chronic urticaria. Additional testing can be done if presentation suggests underlying disease or specific causes requiring confirmation.

C

1, 7, 9, 15

A complete blood count with differential and measurement of erythrocyte sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein level are recommended to rule out systemic disease. Various sources recommend urinalysis, measurement of thyroid-stimulating hormone level, and liver function testing to look for other causes.

Nonsedating antihistamines are the first-line treatment of urticaria and may be titrated to two to four times their normal dose, if necessary.

C

1, 7, 16

These are recommended over older antihistamines because of their adverse effect profiles. All histamine H1 blockers appear to be effective. There are few head-to-head effectiveness data.

The addition of a histamine H2 blocker to an H1 blocker may help in refractory cases of urticaria.

B

1, 7, 16, 18

Several studies have found at least a modest benefit, although the mechanism of this benefit is unclear.

Leukotriene receptor antagonists may be most useful in patients with cold urticaria or intolerance to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

B

21

Several trials have shown benefit to using these medications with or without antihistamines, especially in the subpopulations listed.


A = consistent, good-quality patient-oriented evidence; B = inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence; C = consensus, disease-oriented evidence, usual practice, expert opinion, or case series. For information about the SORT evidence rating system, go to http://www.aafp.org/afpsort.xml.

SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

View Table

SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Clinical recommendation Evidence rating References Comments

An extensive workup is not recommended for diagnosing a cause of chronic urticaria. Additional testing can be done if presentation suggests underlying disease or specific causes requiring confirmation.

C

1, 7, 9, 15

A complete blood count with differential and measurement of erythrocyte sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein level are recommended to rule out systemic disease. Various sources recommend urinalysis, measurement of thyroid-stimulating hormone level, and liver function testing to look for other causes.

Nonsedating antihistamines are the first-line treatment of urticaria and may be titrated to two to four times their normal dose, if necessary.

C

1, 7, 16

These are recommended over older antihistamines because of their adverse effect profiles. All histamine H1 blockers appear to be effective. There are few head-to-head effectiveness data.

The addition of a histamine H2 blocker to an H1 blocker may help in refractory cases of urticaria.

B

1, 7, 16, 18

Several studies have found at least a modest benefit, although the mechanism of this benefit is unclear.

Leukotriene receptor antagonists may be most useful in patients with cold urticaria or intolerance to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

B

21

Several trials have shown benefit to using these medications with or without antihistamines, especially in the subpopulations listed.


A = consistent, good-quality patient-oriented evidence; B = inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence; C = consensus, disease-oriented evidence, usual practice, expert opinion, or case series. For information about the SORT evidence rating system, go to http://www.aafp.org/afpsort.xml.

Figure 1.

Sharply demarcated, annular, urticarial plaques.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 1.

Sharply demarcated, annular, urticarial plaques.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 1.

Sharply demarcated, annular, urticarial plaques.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Figure 2.

Coalescing urticarial papules.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 2.

Coalescing urticarial papules.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 2.

Coalescing urticarial papules.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Figure 3.

Serpiginous, erythematous, urticarial plaques.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 3.

Serpiginous, erythematous, urticarial plaques.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 3.

Serpiginous, erythematous, urticarial plaques.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Urticaria can occur on any part of the skin. The lesions are round to polymorphic, and can rapidly grow and coalesce. Angioedema primarily affects the face, lips, mouth, upper airway, and extremities, but can occur in other locations. In both conditions, the onset of symptoms is rapid, usually occurring within minutes. Individual urticarial lesions typically resolve within 24 hours without treatment, although angioedema may take up to 72 hours.1 Usually there are no residual lesions remaining after symptom resolution, except for possible excoriations from itching.

Urticaria, with or without angioedema, can be classified as acute or chronic. In acute urticaria, although individual wheals resolve within hours, they can recur for up to six weeks, depending on the etiology. In chronic urticaria, flare-ups recur more days than not for more than six weeks. Often it is not apparent which cases will progress to chronic urticaria at initial presentation. Urticaria occurs across all age ranges and has a lifetime prevalence of approximately 20 percent in the general population, with the chronic form affecting 1 percent of the population.2

Etiology

Urticaria and angioedema are thought to have similar underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms, with histamine and other mediators being released from mast cells and basophils. The difference between the two conditions is whether the mast cells are in the superficial dermis, which results in urticaria, or in the deeper dermis and subcutaneous tissues, which produces angioedema. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) mediation of this histamine release is often ascribed, but non-IgE and nonimmunologic mast cell activation can also be a cause. Bradykinin-mediated increase in vascular permeability is another cause of angioedema associated with the use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Chronic urticaria may have a serologic autoimmune component in some patients, including antibodies to IgE and the high-affinity IgE receptor. However, the exact mechanism of action and significance of these antibodies remain unclear.3,4

Several causes of urticaria have been identified (Table 1).5 Triggers often can be identified in patients with acute urticaria, although a specific trigger is found in only 10 to 20 percent of chronic cases.6 Common triggers include allergens, food pseudoallergens (i.e., foods or food additives that contain histamine or that may cause the release of histamine directly, such as strawberries, tomatoes, preservatives, and coloring agents), insect envenomation, medication, or infections.79 Urticaria can be caused by allergic reactions to medications, especially antibiotics, and through direct mast cell degranulation by some medications, including aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, radio-contrast dye, muscle relaxants, opiates, and vancomycin. Figure 4 shows an example of contact urticaria. Physical stimuli (e.g., heat, cold [Figure 5], vibration, pressure) and exercise or other triggers that raise the core body temperature (cholinergic urticaria [Figure 6]) can also cause urticaria in some patients, likely through direct mast cell activation.10

Table 1.

Causes of Urticaria

Immunoglobulin E mediated

Aeroallergens

Contact allergen

Food allergens

Insect venom

Medications (allergic reaction)

Parasitic infections

Nonimmunoglobulin E mediated

Autoimmune disease

Cryoglobulinemia

Infections (bacterial, fungal, viral)

Lymphoma

Vasculitis

Nonimmunologically mediated

Elevation of core body temperature

Food pseudoallergens

Light

Medications (direct mast cell degranulation)

Physical stimuli (cold, local heat, pressure,

vibration)

Water


Information from reference 5.

Table 1.   Causes of Urticaria

View Table

Table 1.

Causes of Urticaria

Immunoglobulin E mediated

Aeroallergens

Contact allergen

Food allergens

Insect venom

Medications (allergic reaction)

Parasitic infections

Nonimmunoglobulin E mediated

Autoimmune disease

Cryoglobulinemia

Infections (bacterial, fungal, viral)

Lymphoma

Vasculitis

Nonimmunologically mediated

Elevation of core body temperature

Food pseudoallergens

Light

Medications (direct mast cell degranulation)

Physical stimuli (cold, local heat, pressure,

vibration)

Water


Information from reference 5.

Figure 4.

Contact urticaria showing confluent urticarial plaques of the hands.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 4.

Contact urticaria showing confluent urticarial plaques of the hands.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 4.

Contact urticaria showing confluent urticarial plaques of the hands.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Figure 5.

Urticarial plaque caused by exposure to cold.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 5.

Urticarial plaque caused by exposure to cold.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 5.

Urticarial plaque caused by exposure to cold.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Figure 6.

Cholinergic urticaria showing an urticarial papule at the center of a larger erythematous plaque.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 6.

Cholinergic urticaria showing an urticarial papule at the center of a larger erythematous plaque.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 6.

Cholinergic urticaria showing an urticarial papule at the center of a larger erythematous plaque.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Systemic disease is a relatively rare cause, with the exception of Hashimoto disease; thyroid autoimmunity may be associated with up to 30 percent of chronic urticaria cases.11 Other systemic illnesses that have been associated with urticaria or angioedema include mastocytosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, vasculitis, hepatitis, and lymphoma.

Differential Diagnosis

Urticaria is often referred to as hives, but that term can have a variety of meanings in the general population. Common conditions that can be confused with urticaria are listed in Table 2.12,13 These conditions are diagnosed primarily by history and physical examination. Some conditions can produce urticarial lesions, but they have a different underlying pathophysiology, as well as prognosis and treatment. These include cutaneous mastocytosis (urticaria pigmentosa), urticarial vasculitis, cryoglobulinemia, and several rare disorders. These conditions may be distinguished based on differences in presentation. For example, cutaneous mastocytosis is noted for orange to brown hyperpigmentation of the lesions, urticaria limited to smaller diameters, and Darier sign (a wheal and flare reaction produced by stroking the lesion). Likewise, classic urticarial vasculitis is distinguished by individual wheals that last for more than 24 hours, are painful, and leave residual hyperpigmentation or purpura12 (Figures 7 and 8). However, the sensitivity of these characteristics may be low.14

Table 2.

Other Conditions That May Be Confused with Urticaria

Condition Distinguishing characteristics

Arthropod bites

Lesions last several days, insect exposure history

Atopic dermatitis

Maculopapular, scaling, characteristic distribution

Contact dermatitis

Indistinct margins, papular

Erythema multiforme

Lesions last several days, iris-shaped papules, target appearance, may have fever

Fixed-drug reactions

Offending drug exposure, not pruritic, hyperpigmentation

Henoch-Schönlein purpura

Lower extremity distribution, purpuric lesions, systemic symptoms

Morbilliform drug reactions

Maculopapular, associated with medication

Pityriasis rosea

Lesions last weeks, herald patch, “Christmas tree” pattern, often not pruritic

Viral exanthem

Not pruritic, prodrome, fever, maculopapular lesions, individual lesions last for days


Information from references 12 and 13.

Table 2.   Other Conditions That May Be Confused with Urticaria

View Table

Table 2.

Other Conditions That May Be Confused with Urticaria

Condition Distinguishing characteristics

Arthropod bites

Lesions last several days, insect exposure history

Atopic dermatitis

Maculopapular, scaling, characteristic distribution

Contact dermatitis

Indistinct margins, papular

Erythema multiforme

Lesions last several days, iris-shaped papules, target appearance, may have fever

Fixed-drug reactions

Offending drug exposure, not pruritic, hyperpigmentation

Henoch-Schönlein purpura

Lower extremity distribution, purpuric lesions, systemic symptoms

Morbilliform drug reactions

Maculopapular, associated with medication

Pityriasis rosea

Lesions last weeks, herald patch, “Christmas tree” pattern, often not pruritic

Viral exanthem

Not pruritic, prodrome, fever, maculopapular lesions, individual lesions last for days


Information from references 12 and 13.

Figure 7.

Urticarial vasculitis showing fixed, erythematous, urticarial plaques with blanching halos.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 7.

Urticarial vasculitis showing fixed, erythematous, urticarial plaques with blanching halos.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 7.

Urticarial vasculitis showing fixed, erythematous, urticarial plaques with blanching halos.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Figure 8.

Urticarial vasculitis showing fixed urticarial plaques and hemosiderin patches.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

View Large


Figure 8.

Urticarial vasculitis showing fixed urticarial plaques and hemosiderin patches.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.


Figure 8.

Urticarial vasculitis showing fixed urticarial plaques and hemosiderin patches.

Image courtesy of Logical Images, Inc.

Evaluation

The initial workup for urticaria and angioedema is a history and physical examination to determine a possible etiology (Table 3). Patients should be asked about timing and onset of symptoms, associated symptoms (which may suggest anaphylaxis), likely triggers, medications and supplements (especially new or recently changed dosages), recent infections, and travel history. Physicians should perform a complete review of systems. Physical examination should include identifying and characterizing any current lesions, testing for dermatographism (urticaria, often linear, that forms with stroking or rubbing of unblemished skin), and checking for signs of systemic illness.

Table 3.

Urticaria Etiologies Based on Patient History and Physical Examination

Clinical clue Possible etiology

Abdominal pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, stridor, tachycardia

Anaphylaxis

Dermatographism

Physical urticaria

Food ingestion immediately before symptoms

Food allergy

Infectious exposure

Infection

Medication use or change

Medication allergy or direct mast cell degranulation

Physical stimuli

Physical urticaria (Figure 5)

Smaller wheals (1 to 2 mm), burning or itching, brought on by heat or exercise

Cholinergic urticaria (Figure 6)

Travel

Parasitic or other infection

Upper respiratory tract infection or urinary tract infection symptoms

Infection

Weight gain, cold intolerance

Hypothyroidism

Weight loss (unintentional)

Lymphoma

Wheals lasting more than 24 hours, burning, residual hyperpigmentation

Urticarial vasculitis (Figures 7 and 8)

Table 3.   Urticaria Etiologies Based on Patient History and Physical Examination

View Table

Table 3.

Urticaria Etiologies Based on Patient History and Physical Examination

Clinical clue Possible etiology

Abdominal pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, stridor, tachycardia

Anaphylaxis

Dermatographism

Physical urticaria

Food ingestion immediately before symptoms

Food allergy

Infectious exposure

Infection

Medication use or change

Medication allergy or direct mast cell degranulation

Physical stimuli

Physical urticaria (Figure 5)

Smaller wheals (1 to 2 mm), burning or itching, brought on by heat or exercise

Cholinergic urticaria (Figure 6)

Travel

Parasitic or other infection

Upper respiratory tract infection or urinary tract infection symptoms

Infection

Weight gain, cold intolerance

Hypothyroidism

Weight loss (unintentional)

Lymphoma

Wheals lasting more than 24 hours, burning, residual hyperpigmentation

Urticarial vasculitis (Figures 7 and 8)

A broad laboratory workup has not been found to increase the likelihood of diagnosing a cause of urticaria.15 No workup is recommended for acute urticaria unless history or physical examination suggests underlying disease or a specific cause that needs to be confirmed or ruled out. For instance, presentation suggestive of urticarial vasculitis should prompt immediate biopsy. With chronic urticaria, all of the guidelines reviewed for this article recommend a complete blood count with differential and measurement of erythrocyte sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein level to test for infection, atopy, and systemic illness, whereas measurement of thyroid-stimulating hormone level, liver function tests, and urinalysis are variously recommended.1,7,9 Such testing typically would be ordered after symptoms have been present for six weeks. As with acute urticaria, a broader workup for chronic urticaria is recommended only when there are suggestions of specific causes or underlying issues. Abnormalities in the initial testing are uncommon, but should be followed up when present. When history suggests a physical urticaria, challenge testing with the physical stimuli may be considered, but such testing often lacks validated challenge parameters.10

Treatment

The centerpiece of treatment is avoidance of known triggers. It is also recommended that patients avoid aspirin, alcohol, and possibly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use because these may worsen urticarial symptoms. When avoidance is impossible, no trigger is identified, or symptomatic relief is still required despite avoidance, antihistamine medications are first-line pharmacotherapy. A variety of additional medications can be used when first-line antihistamines are not adequate.

ACUTE SYMPTOMS

Data on the treatment of acute urticaria are sparse; most available data are on treatment of chronic urticaria. Nonetheless, histamine H1 blockers are first-line therapy for acute urticaria. These include second-generation agents such as loratadine (Claritin), desloratadine (Clarinex), fexofenadine (Allegra), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and levocetirizine (Xyzal), which are relatively nonsedating at standard dosages and are dosed once per day. First-generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), hydroxyzine (Vistaril), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), and cyproheptadine are faster acting and some have parenteral forms, but also require more frequent dosing and have more adverse effects, including drowsiness, decreased reaction time, confusion, dizziness, impaired concentration, and decreased psychomotor performance. Older patients may be more susceptible to these effects. Because of the adverse effect profiles and the half-lives of the agents' antihistaminergic effects, the second-generation antihistamines are recommended as initial pharmacotherapy.1,7,16 However, head-to-head clinical trials are too sparse to clearly determine if one antihistamine is superior to another, given the ranges in individual responses to a specific medication. With more severe symptoms, first-generation H1 blockers may be used for their more rapid onset of action or parenteral forms.17 Psychomotor adverse effects should be discussed with patients before initiation of therapy.

Addition of histamine H2 blockers to therapy with H1 blockers has been shown to be modestly beneficial for acute symptoms.18 H2 blockers include cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), and ranitidine (Zantac). Limited data suggest that adding corticosteroids to antihistamines may yield a more rapid improvement and resolution of symptoms19; as such, prednisone or prednisolone (0.5 to 1 mg per kg per day) may be added for three to seven days, usually in a tapered dosage, especially for patients with severe symptoms.13,19

Treatment of acute angioedema is largely the same as treatment for urticaria, although corticosteroids may be recommended more often.13 However, angioedema of the larynx and massive angioedema of the tongue are medical emergencies because of airway obstruction risk, requiring intramuscular epinephrine and airway management. Patients who have had angioedema that threatened airway compromise should be prescribed epinephrine autoinjectors in sufficient numbers so that they will have one for home, work or school, and their car, as appropriate.

CHRONIC URTICARIA

A stepwise approach to treating chronic idiopathic urticaria, based on published treatment guidelines, is shown in Figure 9.1,7,16 Second-generation antihistamines are considered first-line therapy. For better symptom control, the medication should be dosed daily, rather than on an as-needed basis.20 Treatment guidelines suggest that if normal doses are not successful, titration up to two to four times the usual dose is the next step.1,7,16 With higher doses, there is greater possibility of adverse effects, which should be discussed with patients.

Chronic Urticaria Treatment

Figure 9.

Algorithm for the treatment of chronic idiopathic urticaria.

Information from references 1,7, and 16.

View Large

Chronic Urticaria Treatment


Figure 9.

Algorithm for the treatment of chronic idiopathic urticaria.

Information from references 1,7, and 16.

Chronic Urticaria Treatment


Figure 9.

Algorithm for the treatment of chronic idiopathic urticaria.

Information from references 1,7, and 16.

If symptoms remain uncontrolled, there are several options. The patient can be switched to a different second-generation H1 blocker and titrated as necessary. First-generation antihistamines may be added, especially at night, although such combination regimens have few published effectiveness data. H2 blockers may be added and have been shown to be at least modestly beneficial when used in conjunction with H1 blockers. A three- to 10-day tapered burst of oral corticosteroids (prednisone or prednisolone, up to 1 mg per kg per day) is sometimes used to get control of symptoms, although corticosteroids do not directly prevent mast cell degranulation,7,16,21 and long-term use is not recommended because of adverse effects.

There are data on the effectiveness of leukotriene receptor antagonists such as montelukast (Singulair) and zafirlukast (Accolate) in the treatment of chronic idiopathic urticaria, especially in patients with cold urticaria or intolerance to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and a leukotriene receptor antagonist may be added if first-line agents are insufficient.21 The tricyclic antidepressant doxepin has significant H1 antihistaminergic properties and has been shown to be effective for urticaria in several small, randomized controlled trials, but it also is sedating and has anticholinergic adverse effects, as well as possible cardiac arrhythmia adverse effects.7,22 These various pharmacotherapy options can be added individually or layered sequentially to obtain control of symptoms.

If sufficient control still is not achieved, second-line agents including cyclosporine (Sandimmune), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), tacrolimus (Prograf), and dapsone have shown some benefits. However, referral to a subspecialist for prescribing such medications may be preferred, depending on the physician's comfort level and experience with their administration.21 After symptoms are controlled adequately, patients should be maintained on the regimen (excluding corticosteroids) for at least three months before considering titrating down and discontinuing medications.

Prognosis

A prospective cohort study found that 35 percent of patients with chronic urticaria will be symptom-free within one year, with another 29 percent having some reduction of symptoms. Spontaneous remission occurred within three years in 48 percent of patients with idiopathic chronic urticaria, but in only 16 percent of those with physical urticaria.23

Data Sources: Initial PubMed search results were provided by American Family Physician. Repeat PubMed Clinical Queries using the term “urticaria” with each category and systematic review were performed throughout the writing process, starting on April 1, 2010, with the last search performed on July 1, 2010. Also searched were Bandolier, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (complete reviews), Effective Healthcare, National Guideline Clearinghouse, DynaMed, and UptoDate Online.

The Author

PAUL SCHAEFER, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor, clerkship director, and Director for Medical Student Education in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Toledo (Ohio) College of Medicine.

Address correspondence to Paul Schaefer, MD, PhD, University of Toledo Health Science Campus, MS 1179, 2224 Dowling Hall, 3000 Arlington Ave., Toledo, OH 43614 (e-mail: paul.schaefer@utoledo.edu). Reprints are not available from the author.

Author disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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8. Sackesen C, Sekerel BE, Orhan F, Kocabas CN, Tuncer A, Adalioglu G. The etiology of different forms of urticaria in childhood. Pediatr Dermatol. 2004;21(2):102–108.

9. Zuberbier T, Asero R, Bindslev-Jensen C, et al.; Dermatology Section of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology; Global Allergy and Asthma European Network; European Dermatology Forum; World Allergy Organization. EAACI/GA(2)LEN/EDF/WAO guideline: definition, classification and diagnosis of urticaria. Allergy. 2009;64(10):1417–1426.

10. Magerl M, Borzova E, Giménez-Arnau A, et al. The definition and diagnostic testing of physical and cholinergic urticarias–EAACI/GA2LEN/EDF/UNEV consensus panel recommendations. Allergy. 2009;64(12):1715–1721.

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12. Brodell LA, Beck LA. Differential diagnosis of chronic urticaria. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008;100(3):181–188.

13. Bingham CO III. New onset urticaria: diagnosis and treatment. UpToDate Online. http://www.uptodate.com/online/content/topic.do?topicKey=urticari/6907 [subscription required]. Accessed April 1, 2010.

14. Tosoni C, Lodi-Rizzini F, Cinquini M, et al. A reassessment of diagnostic criteria and treatment of idiopathic urticarial vasculitis: a retrospective study of 47 patients. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2009;34(2):166–170.

15. Kozel MM, Bossuyt PM, Mekkes JR, Bos JD. Laboratory tests and identified diagnoses in patients with physical and chronic urticaria and angioedema: a systematic review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003;48(3):409–416.

16. Zuberbier T, Asero R, Bindslev-Jensen C, et al.; Dermatology Section of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology; Global Allergy and Asthma European Network; European Dermatology Forum; World Allergy Organization. EAACI/GA(2)LEN/EDF/WAO guideline: management of urticaria. Allergy. 2009;64(10):1427–1443.

17. Lee EE, Maibach HI. Treatment of urticaria. An evidence-based evaluation of antihistamines. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(1):27–32.

18. Lin RY, Curry A, Pesola GR, et al. Improved outcomes in patients with acute allergic syndromes who are treated with combined H1 and H2 antagonists. Ann Emerg Med. 2000;36(5):462–468.

19. Pollack CV Jr, Romano TJ. Outpatient management of acute urticaria: the role of prednisone. Ann Emerg Med. 1995;26(5):547–551.

20. Grob JJ, Auquier P, Dreyfus I, Ortonne JP. How to prescribe antihistamines for chronic idiopathic urticaria: desloratadine daily vs PRN and quality of life. Allergy. 2009;64(4):605–612.

21. Morgan M, Khan DA. Therapeutic alternatives for chronic urticaria: an evidence-based review, part 1. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008;100(5):403–411.

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