What are hives?

Also called urticaria, they are welts that appear anywhere on the skin and itch, vary in size from pinky tip to plate-sized, and may connect into larger welts. Hives can last weeks, but individual hives go away after about a day. When hives last longer than six weeks, they are called chronic. Sometimes the result of an allergy, hives can have other causes. When large welts happen deep under the skin, it is called angioedema.


What are hives?

Also called urticaria, they are welts that appear anywhere on the skin and itch, vary in size from pinky tip to plate-sized, and may connect into larger welts. Hives can last weeks, but individual hives go away after about a day. When hives last longer than six weeks, they are called chronic. Sometimes the result of an allergy, hives can have other causes. When large welts happen deep under the skin, it is called angioedema.

What are the symptoms?

Raised, pink/red swellings, or single or multiple welts connected over a large areas, skin swelling which goes away in a day, but may reappear in another spot. Typically they itch, and maybe even sting or hurt. Some people have a trigger, like too much sunlight or taking a certain medication. If they reoccur in the same spot, this may be referred to as “fixed” hives.

What causes hives?

Hives are common, and anyone can get them. An allergic reaction to foods, like treenuts, eggs, or milk, can trigger them. Pollen, insect bites, animals or latex can trigger hives as well. Some bacterial and fungal infections can cause them, having an illness like lupus, thyroid disease, or vasculitis, exposure to sun or stress, and prolonged skin pressure from sitting/lying down.

How are they diagnosed and treated?

While the symptoms may be readily discernable, the cause may not. Allergy tests, blood work, and a skin biopsy may be performed. Antihistamines relieve symptoms like itching for mild to moderate hives. Your dermatologist at Dermatology of Seattle may prescribe an antihistamine, taken daily to prevent chronic hives. Other medicines are cortisones, antibacterial Dapsone, or in some cases of angloedema, an injection of epinephrine. Few people have chronic hives, and they may go away by themselves. Children may outgrow the allergies which cause hives, and for most people hives are not serious. However, having trouble breathing or swallowing are signs to seek medical attention immediately.