What are hives?

Hive triggers and treatment
on Thu 9 Jun


Hives is a raised itchy/stinging rash, bumps or welts which suddenly appear on the skin anywhere on the body. These usually appear in batches and on pale skins the rash may look red, on darker skins the rash colour will be more difficult to see.


Other typical symptoms include:


  • swelling under the affected skin
  • the centre of the rash becoming pale when pressed
  • affected areas linking up to join
  • bumps appearing and disappearing or even completely changing location


Affecting about 20% of people at some point in their life, this is not transmitted from one person to another, it is usually triggered by allergens or by circumstances.


Allergen triggers usually include:

  • Pollen
  • Medications
  • Food
  • Additives in cosmetics or washing products
  • Wearing latex
  • Being stung by plants such as stinging nettles
  • Eating mango, chestnut, kiwi fruit or bananas
  • Animal dander
  • Insect bites


 Circumstantial triggers can include

  • Feeling stressed
  • Wearing tight fitting clothes/a tight belt
  • Illness
  • Infection
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Excessive exposure to extreme temperature
  • UV light
  • In rare cases, vibration
  • Already having known allergies
  • As an underlying condition – see chronic hives below.


If hives is caused by food, the reaction usually occurs within an hour and lasts about 24 hours.


If  the condition is caused by touching, reaction can happen as quickly as within 10 minutes but again within up to an hour.


A reaction to a drug can happen much later – even up to some months or years


What is the treatment for hives?

It is the raising of histamine levels in the blood that causes hives. This happens when the histamine protein is released by the body in an attempt to protect itself from infection or external factors.


In most cases hives are temporary and the situation can be resolved through the taking of over the counter antihistamine tablets and avoiding any triggers over which you have some control.


You could also try soothing lotions or creams to reduce itchiness


If you develop a mild infection of the skin you should use antiseptic cream


If it goes on for several weeks you should consult your GP who will probably give you stronger antihistamines or steroids.


And if you develop a breathing problem and have swelling around the tongue or throat such that you are becoming lightheaded or have a rapid heartbeat, you should call for emergency help as you may go into anaphylaxis which is life-threatening.


Your doctor may also prescribe an epi-pen to carry for emergency use.


Can you have chronic hives?

Yes, the condition is generally regarded as chronic if it goes on for more than 6 weeks. (This seems to happen in about 8% of cases). At which time it is medically described as “chronic urticaria”


Whilst not life threatening it can be extremely uncomfortable and is often an underlying symptom of an auto immune disease such as lupus, type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis.


So again, please don’t ignore it, you should consult your GP.


In terms of treatment, you are likely to be on antihistamines but may also be prescribed a drug that blocks immunoglobin E - something which plays a part in allergic responses.


I hope this has been helpful.


We make every effort to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date. However it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional. As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals we cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can we be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.


About Stephanie Acne Age-related Macular Degeneration AIDS alcohol units and effects allergies Andropause angina anorexia Anti Ageing Anxiety arrhythmia arthritis asthma atrial fibrillation back pain basic metabolic rate BHRT bio-identical hormones Biog Bloating blood pressure BMR bone density Book review bowel cancer brain fog brain tumour Bronchitis bulimia Bursitis calcium Cancer cancer signs and symptoms carpal tunnel syndromw cervical cancer Cervical smear Charles Bonnet Syndrome check your pulse cholesterol chronic fatigue syndrome coeliac disease cold virus contraception COPD coronary thrombosis coronavirus covid-19 Deep vein thrombosis dehydration signs Delaying menopause Dementia Depression dermatitis Diabetes Digestive problems digital health Donor advice DVT dyspareunia Ear infections Early menopause eating disorders eczema endometriosis exercise fertility fibroids fitness flu gallstones Gardisil Genetic testing government health policy hair loss hayfever Health Awareness Day Health Awareness Month Health Awareness week health warning healthy eating heart attack heart attacks Heart Disease Helpful supplements Hepatitis High blood pressure HIV Hives Hormone Replacement Therapy hormones hot flushes HPV HRT HRT & breast cancer HRT in the news HRT risks hydration benefits Hypertension IBS immune system itching Itchy Skin joint pain kidney function Laryngitis Leukaemia libido lichen sclerosus lifestyle liver Liver Disease Long Covid Symptoms lowered immmunity Lung cancer Lupus LUTS Macular Degeneration Magnesium# Male Menopause Managing Anxiety Managing Stress ME/CFS Men's health Meningitis Menoapuse advice for partners menopause menopause and dental health Menopause Specialist menopause symptoms Menopause Weight Gain menpause Menstrual Cycle Menstruation Menstruation and Athletes mental health Mental health support metabolism microbiome Migraine Migraines Motivation technique mouth cancer night sweats Norovirus oestrogen osteoarthritis Osteoporosis Paget's disease painful sex palpitations Pancreatic Cancer Parkinson's Parkinsons pelvic pain Perimenopause perimenopause and breast pain Pneumonia POI post menopause vocal syndrome Premature Ovarian Insufficiency Probiotics Prolapse prostate prostate cancer Pruritis Psoriasis Psychosexual medicine reflux rheumatoid arthritis Rosacea sarcoma self harming sex sex and disability sexual health Shingles Sinusitis skin cancer Skin health sleep Statins Staying positive STI's Strep A Strep throat stroke Takayasu Arteritis talks and presentations TB testosterone Tinnitus trying to lose weight tuberculosis Type 2 Diabetes underactive thyroid Urinary Infections Urinary Tract Infection Using a private GP UTI's vaginal dryness Vascular awareness month vegan diets Vitamin D Vulval itching Winter Vomiting Bug women's health World Health Day

Email enquiry form

How To Find Us

25 Harley Street, London W1G 9QW

Newsletter Signup

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.


We use MailChimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to MailChimp for processing. Learn more about MailChimp's privacy practices here.