Hives

Hives

Is this your symptom?

  • Hives, an itchy rash made up of raised pink bumps with pale centers, that comes and goes

Some Basics...

  • Hives is a common allergic skin reaction. It can be caused by something a person has eaten, touched, or been near.
  • Hives cannot be spread to other people. They will normally go away on their own.
  • Hives often come and go for a few days to a week. Sometimes they can come back weeks or months later.
  • Some people have chronic hives. This means that their hives come and go for years.

Symptoms

  • Itchy swollen patches or bumps that suddenly appear
  • Patches change shape and location
  • Any one patch often only lasts for a few hours then fades away
  • Size of patches varies from a ½ inch (12 mm) to a few inches (1-8 cm) across
  • In people with lighter skin tones, hives appear pink or red in color and have a pale middle area (welts)

Causes

Localized Hives: Localized hives occur on just one area of the body. This type of hives can be caused by touching plants, pollens, pet saliva, food, chemicals. Some people get hives from firmly stroking the skin. Localized hives is not caused by drugs, infection, or swallowed foods. They most often go away in less than 4 hours.

Widespread Hives: Widespread hives are hives that occur on more than one part of the body at the same time. It is an allergic reaction to something. It can caused by things like food, medicines, or an insect bite. Sometimes people get widespread hives after a viral infection. Stress can sometimes bring on hives or make them worse. Often the cause of hives is never found.

Types of Allergic Reactions

Hives can occur with different types of allergic reactions. Hives can sometimes be the first sign of a severe allergic reaction.

  • Localized Hives: These are hives that occur on one part of the body only.
  • Widespread Hives: These are hives that occur on 2 or more parts of the body.
  • Severe Allergic Reaction: There will be other symptoms besides just hives. These include fainting, a swollen tongue, shortness of breath, or stomach pain. This is a medical emergency.
  • Anaphylaxis: This is the term for a very serious allergic reaction. A person can die from this type of allergic reaction. It happens very quickly, usually within minutes after an exposure. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and severe weakness. The throat can swell shut, blocking normal breathing. This is a medical emergency and an ambulance should be called right away.

When to Call for Hives

Call 911 Now

  • Trouble waking up or acting confused
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Very weak (can't stand)
  • Tongue swelling starts suddenly
  • Hoarseness or cough starts suddenly
  • Life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis) in the past to the same thing (food, insect bite/sting, chemical) and less than 2 hours since exposed
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Stomach pain, joint swelling, or fever
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Hives keep you from working or going to school after taking antihistamines for 24 hours
  • Hives are getting worse and taking prescribed steroids for 24 hours
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Hives last more than 1 week
  • Had hives 3 or more times in past year with no known cause
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Hives with no other problems

Care Advice

Hives from Food Reaction

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Food can cause hives, mostly near the mouth.
    • Sometimes, they may mean that you have a mild food allergy. Some people can get them from eating some common foods like strawberries.
    • Hives from foods most often go away within 6 hours.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Antihistamine Medicine for Hives from Food Allergy:
    • You can take one of the following drugs for hives and itching: diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec), or loratadine (Claritin, Alavert).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your hives and itching feel better.
    • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may make you feel drowsy. Loratadine and cetirizine do not cause you to feel as sleepy. They are also long-acting so they last 24 hours.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  3. Prevention: Avoid any food that you think caused the hives.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe hives or itching lasts more than 24 hours after taking an antihistamine
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Localized Hives

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Hives is a common allergic skin reaction.
    • Localized hives occur on just one area of the body. This type of hives can be caused by touching something to which you are allergic. It can be an allergy to a plant, pollen, pet saliva, food, or a chemical.
    • Hives cannot be spread to other people. They will normally go away on their own.
    • You can treat hives at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Treating Localized Hives:
    • Wash the allergens off the skin with soap and water.
    • If your skin is itchy, massage it with a cold washcloth or ice.
    • The hives most often go away in a few hours. You will most likely not need to take an antihistamine.
  3. Hydrocortisone Cream for Localized Hives:
    • For very itchy spots, put on hydrocortisone cream 4 times a day as needed.
    • It is sold over-the-counter (OTC) in the United States as 0.5% and 1% cream.
    • Sold OTC in Canada as 0.5% cream.
  4. Prevention: Try to avoid what you think caused the hives.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe hives or itching lasts more than 24 hours after taking an antihistamine
    • Hives last more than 1 week
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Widespread Hives

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Hives is a common allergic skin reaction.
    • Widespread hives are hives that occur on more than one part of the body at the same time. It is often an allergic reaction to something that you have been exposed to. It can caused by things like food, medicines, or an insect bite. Sometimes people get widespread hives after a viral infection. Stress can sometimes bring on hives or make them worse. Often the cause of hives is never found.
    • Hives cannot be spread to other people. They will normally go away on their own.
    • You can treat hives at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Treating Widespread Hives:
    • Remove allergens by taking a bath or shower. This is important if the hives were from pollens or an animal. You should also change your clothes.
    • Take a cool bath for 10 minutes to help the itching. Rub very itchy skin with an ice cube for 10 minutes.
    • It is normal for hives to come and go for 3-4 days. Then they will go away.
  3. Antihistamine Medicine for Widespread Hives and Itching:
    • You can take one of the following drugs for hives and itching: diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec), or loratadine (Claritin, Alavert).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your hives and itching feel better.
    • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may make you feel drowsy. Loratadine and cetirizine do not cause you to feel as sleepy. They are also long-acting so they last 24 hours.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  4. How It Is Spread:
    • Hives are not contagious. You cannot spread hives to other people.
    • You can return to work or school if the hives do not interfere with normal activities.
  5. Prevention: If you identify a substance that causes hives, try to avoid that substance in the future.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe itching lasts more than 24 hours while taking an antihistamine
    • Hives last more than 1 week
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 12/14/2017 1:32:39 AM
Last Updated: 5/17/2017 5:42:35 PM

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Hives on the Back
  • Hives is an itchy rash.
  • The shapes of hives are variable. Sizes of hives vary from ½ inch to several inches across.
  • Hives may disappear in one area and then reappear somewhere else, over the course of several hours.
Hives on the Abdomen
  • Hives is an itchy rash.
  • The shapes of hives are variable. Sizes of hives vary from ½ inch to several inches across.
  • Hives may disappear in one area and then reappear somewhere else, over the course of several hours.