Hives (Urticaria)

What are hives?

Hives are red raised extremely itchy bumps that come up and resolve within a few minutes to a couple of days without residual marks.  About 5 % of the population will suffer from hives at some point.  Acute hives lasting less than 6 weeks (sometimes longer) are thought to be due to an allergic reaction of some sort.  These tend to be self limiting and a cause is typically never identified. Chronic hives or hives lasting more than 6 weeks are generally thought to not be an allergic reaction.  They can be worsened by heat, pressure, stress, infections of any sort, alcohol, and certain medications.  Extensive testing is generally not recommended as there are few identified causes. 

Are hives life threatening?

Symptoms are troubling and along with severe itching of the skin, swelling of the lips, hands and feet are also commonly seen in those with wide spread hives. Generally symptoms of shortness of breath, wheezing and abdominal pain are rarely seen in those with chronic hives.

Can I be tested for allergic triggers?

If there are other changes in the health or underlying autoimmune disease, your doctor may recommend certain diagnostics.  Otherwise the mainstay of treatment is antihistamine suppression.  Sometimes in refractory cases, your doctor may recommend an injected medication or an immune suppressant medication to prevent the hives.  The majority of those with chronic hives will have spontaneous improvement in 3-5 years from onset.

If you or someone you know is suffering from hives, get treated and start feeling better today. 

Sandra A. Ho, MD

You Might Also Enjoy...

What is an allergist/immunologist?

An allergist/immunologist is a physician that is specially trained to diagnose and treat specific disorders of the immune system including: asthma, seasonal allergies, eczema, medication allergy, food allergies and contact skin allergies.

Contact Dermatitis

Red, hot, extremely itchy swollen skin reactions sometimes with blistering and peeling are delayed type allergic reactions of the skin. Keep reading to find out more about this type of dermatitis.


Atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease characterized by extremely itchy dry skin. Core treatment of eczema may surprise you. Keep reading for more information.

Gluten and Your Health

Gluten-free has become a frequently seen buzz-word on packaged foods, restaurant menus and popular among those interested in health and fitness. Keep reading for the allergist's take on gluten.

Can you be allergic to your own hormones?

Autoimmune progesterone-induced dermatitis can lead to cyclic patterns of rash, swelling of the face and flushing of the skin in women. It represents a form of hormone allergy.