• Hives

    (Angioedema; Urticaria)


    Hives are small, itchy, red swollen areas on the skin. The swelling occurs singularly or in clusters. Hives tend to fade after a few hours, but new ones can appear. Most cases go away within a few days. However, some last a few weeks or longer.
    Nucleus factsheet image
    © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Hives are often caused when the body releases a chemical called histamine. Histamine is released during an allergic reaction. Many people, though, get hives without being exposed to something they are allergic to.
    While the cause is unknown in some cases, these factors may cause hives:
      Foods, most commonly:
      • Eggs
      • Shellfish
      • Nuts
      • Chocolate
      • Fish
      • Tomatoes
      • Fresh berries
      • Milk
    • Medications
    • Reaction to allergy shots
    • Infections
    • Insect bites or stings
    • Latex
    • Pressure
    • Cold or heat
    • Sunlight
    • Pollen
    • Stress
    • Underlying medical conditions:

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chances of hives include:
    • Exposure to an allergen—something that causes an allergic reaction
    • Exposure to an allergen that triggered hives in the past


    Symptoms of hives can vary from mild-to-severe:
    • Itchiness
    • Redness
    • Swelling
    • Excessive swelling of the eyelids, lips, or genitals
    • Burning
    • Stinging
    • Difficulty breathing or swallowing— Call for emergency services right away if you are having these symptoms.


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist) or allergies (allergist).
    Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
    Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with x-rays.


    The best way to treat hives is to find and then avoid the cause.
    If the cause cannot be found, there are medications to reduce symptoms or treat hives:
    • Antihistamines
    • Leukotriene antagonists
    • Oral steroid medications for hives resistant to other treatments
    • Anti-inflammatory medications
    • Immunosuppressant medications
    • Ultraviolet light therapy
    • Prescription epinephrine (adrenalin) injections for cases when swelling affects the airways


    The best way to prevent hives is to avoid the allergen that caused you to get hives in the past.


    American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology http://www.aaaai.org

    American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org


    Allergy Asthma Information Association http://aaia.ca

    Calgary Allergy Network http://www.calgaryallergy.ca


    Acute urticaria. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T916900/Acute-urticaria. Updated July 27, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Allergic skin conditions. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/allergic-skin-conditions. Updated October 2, 2017.

    Chronic urticaria. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115276/Chronic-urticaria. Updated July 27, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Dibbern DA Jr. Urticaria: selected highlights and recent advances. Med Clin North Am. 2006;90(1):187-209.

    Gambichler T, Breuckmann F, Boms S, Altmeyer P, Kreuter A. Narrowband UVB phototherapy in skin conditions beyond psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52(4):660-670.

    Guldbakke KK, Khachemoune A. Etiology, classification, and treatment of urticaria. Cutis. 2007;79(1):41-49.

    Hives. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/itchy-skin/hives. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Kaplan Allen P. Chronic urticaria: pathogenesis and treatment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004;114(3): 465-474.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
    • Review Date: 09/2017
    • Update Date: 09/30/2014
  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.