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Hives

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.

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Last reviewed: August 2021


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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.

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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.

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ACD A-Z of Skin - Urticaria

Urticaria is a skin condition commonly known as hives. It produces an itchy rash that tends to come and go and can last for a variable period of time.

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

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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.

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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).

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