Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


3-minute read

What is hives?

Hives (also known as 'urticaria' or 'nettle rash'), is a skin rash that can be triggered by a variety of things including allergic reactions, medicines or an infection. Sometimes the trigger is unknown.

What are the symptoms of hives?

The common symptoms include itchy, raised red or skin-coloured bumps or welts on the skin. The raised areas of skin are known as wheals, which often fade after a few hours but can sometimes reappear elsewhere on the body.

The hives rash can last for a few minutes to hours, and usually disappears within 24 hours.

Sometimes people get hives on most days. This is called chronic urticaria. See your doctor if you have hives that keep coming back.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes hives?

The hives rash is caused when the body produces a substance called histamine, which is a protein used to fight off viruses and bacteria.

In most cases, it is not known what triggers this reaction. Sometimes the hives rash happens because of:

  • an infection
  • immune system disease
  • an insect sting or bite
  • touching an animal or plant you are allergic to
  • allergy to food or medication
  • having a dye injected during a radiological test

In some people, hives may be caused by cold air or water, heat, sunlight, vibration, scratching, exercise, sweating, stress, spicy food, alcohol or coffee.

In children, a virus is the most common cause of hives.

Hives that last for days at a time are almost never due to an allergy, apart from an allergy to a specific medication.

Stress rarely causes hives, but stress can make the symptoms worse.

How are hives treated?

No treatment is normally needed. However, if the hives rash continues or gets worse, it can be treated by taking antihistamines. You can buy antihistamines over-the-counter at pharmacies. If these do not control the symptoms, talk to your doctor about stronger medication.

Sometimes hives can last for a long time. If you have hives for more than 6 weeks you might need more tests to identify whether an underlying infection or chronic immune disorder is causing the symptoms.

If the hives are caused by a specific trigger such as a food or medicine, you should avoid this trigger.

If your baby gets hives repeatedly, it's important to see your doctor, as your baby may be allergic to something they are being fed frequently, such as cow's milk.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Urticaria (hives): causes, symptoms and treatment

Urticaria, which is also known as hives, is an itchy rash or skin eruption that usually only lasts from 24 to 48 hours.

Read more on myDr website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Urticaria

A-Z OF SKIN Urticaria BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Also known as…Hives What is Urticaria? Urticaria, or hives (sometimes referred to as welts or wheals), is a common skin condition that produces an itchy rash

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Urticaria (Hives) - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Urticaria (commonly known as hives) are mosquito bite like swellings on the surface of the skin that range in size from a few millimetres to several centimetres. They may last minutes or hours and can change shape from round to oval, forming rings or patches. The skin swelling seen in urticaria is due to the release of chemicals such as histamine from mast cells in the skin that causes small blood vessels to leak. They are often itchy, but sometimes may not be itchy at all.

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Hives (Urticaria) | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is urticaria? Urticaria is a type of skin rash that has raised lumps (“wheals”) that can be itchy

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Hives or urticaria in children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

If your child has raised white, pink or red spots that form an itchy rash, it might be hives or urticaria. It’s a good idea to take your child to the GP.

Read more on website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Papular Urticaria

A-Z OF SKIN Papular Urticaria BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Also known as…Insect bite-induced hypersensitivity What is Papular Urticaria? Papular urticaria is a term used to describe hypersensitivity or an allergic reaction to insect bites manifested by recurrent and persistent itchy lumps or fluid filled blisters

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Hives (urticaria) - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Hives (the common term for urticaria), are pink or red itchy rashes, that may appear as blotches or raised red lumps (wheals) on the skin.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria (CSU) FAQs - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria (CSU) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Angioedema - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Angioedema is a condition in which small blood vessels leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. There is no known cure, however it may be possible to prevent the swelling with medications. Wheal like swellings on the surface of the skin are called hives (urticaria). Angioedema involves swelling deeper in the tissues. Allergy is a very rarely the cause of isolated angioedema (swelling without any other symptoms).

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Pruritus with no rash

Pruritus means itch. Itching is a very common symptom of skin conditions such as eczema, scabies, insect bites and hives. These skin conditions are characterised by the presence of a rash.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.