Hives / Urticaria: Causes, signs, treatment and prevention

Signs and symptoms of hives


Hives or urticaria are a type of rash consisting of itchy, swollen, red welts. These red raised bumps can appear on the skin. Hives is a common skin reaction to a substance that causes allergies. Hives vary in size from as small as a pen tip to as large as a dinner plate. The spots can appear anywhere on the body and can look like tiny little red spots or large connected bumps.

The itching may be mild or severe. Many situations or substances can trigger urticaria. Usually, it starts as an itchy patch of skin that turns into swollen red welts. The itching may be mild to severe. Certain factors such as foods, medications, scratching, alcoholic beverages, emotional stress and many other factors may worsen urticaria.



Hives signs and symptoms

New hives may appear as old ones fade, so hives may last for a few days or longer. Although the affected area may change in appearance within 24 hours, the rash usually settles within a few days.

What causes of hives?

An allergic reaction can cause hives. Things that commonly trigger an allergic reaction include:

  • Foods: such as fruits – especially citrus fruits. Others are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.
  • Medicines such as penincillin, aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Insect bites and stings such as bee sting
  • Pollen
  • Touching something to which you are allergic, such as latex
  • Pets such as cat and other animals

Other causes of urticaria are:

  • Infections such as colds and other infections caused by some bacteria or fungi.
  • Some illnesses such as thyroid disease.
  • Exposure to sun or either heat, cold or water.
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Contact with chemicals such as pesticides

What are the signs & symptoms of hives?

The classical sign is swollen red or pink raised welts. Others includes:

  • Slightly raised, pink or red swellings .
  • Welts that occur alone or in a group, or connect over a large area.
  • Change shape and location in a matter of hours
  • Itch, sting, or cause a burning sensation
  • Skin swelling that subsides or goes away within 24 hours at 1 spot but may appear at another spot
  • Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, or belly pain.

How do you diagnose hives?

In some cases, the trigger is obvious – a person eats peanuts or shrimp, and then breaks out within a short time. Also, most of the time, a doctor can diagnose urticaria just by looking at the skin. Finding the cause of hives, however, can be a challenge. This is especially true for urticaria that have been around for more than 6 weeks. To find the cause, your doctor will ask questions about your child’s medical history, recent illnesses, medicines and exposure to allergens.



If your child has chronic hives, the doctor may ask you to keep a daily record of activities, such as what your child eats and drinks, and where the hives tend to show up on the body. You may also need the following tests:

How is urticaria treated?

Urticaria prevention

In many cases, mild hives won’t need treatment and will go away on their own. If a definite trigger is found, avoiding it is part of the treatment. If the hives feel itchy, the doctor may recommend an antihistamine medicine to block the release of histamine in the bloodstream and prevent breakouts.

Antihistamines are also prescribed to treat chronic (lasting longer than 6 weeks) urticaria. When prescribed for chronic hives, you take this medicine every day to prevent urticaria from forming. Corticosteroids such as prednisone.

How to Prevent Urticaria

If the cause of of your urticaria can be identified, the best preventive measure is to avoid the trigger or eliminate it.

  • Don’t eat foods that have been identified to cause your symptoms.
  • Avoid harsh soaps. Frequent baths may reduce itching and scratching. It is beneficial because itching and scratching can make the hives feel worse.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to prevent pressure urticaria.
  • If you develop hives when exposed to cold, do not swim in cold water. Avoid exposure to cold air and use a scarf around your nose and mouth in cold weather. If you must be out in the cold, wear warm clothing.
  • Wear protective clothing and use sun screen.
  • Notify your physician or pharmacist immediately if you suspect that a specific medication is causing your hives.


About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At felclinic.com we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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