Hives (Urticaria)

Treating Hives

Eliminating the cause: The best treatment of hives is to find and eliminate the cause of hives whenever possible. Antihistamines provide relief and work best when taken on a regular schedule.

Antihistamines: There are various antihistamines, and no one antihistamine responds the same way for everyone. Your dermatologist may use a combination to control your hives. In severe cases, an injection of epinephrine (adrenalin) may be necessary.

Anti-inflammatory and Immune Suppressing Medications: Cortisones are commonly used for dramatic relief, but must be limited to short-term use. Cyclosporine, daspone, and others may sometimes be used. When patients fail to respond to these approaches, other anti-inflammatory drugs may be helpful.

Urticaria is the medical term for hives. Hives are pink welts or swellings that can itch, burn, or sting. They can appear on any part of the skin. Hives typically are a result of an allergic reaction; however, there are many non-allergic causes.

Approximately 10-20 percent of the population experience at least one episode of hives in their lifetime. Hives often will disappear within a few hours, but also may last a few days, or recur continuously over months or years. New hives may develop as old ones fade. Hives can vary in size from as small as a pen tip, to as large as a dinner plate, and may join to form even larger swellings.

Histamine, a substance released from cells in the skin causes rapid blood vessel leakage producing hives. Severe cases of hives may cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing. If this occurs, emergency care is required.

physical uritcaria, dermatographic uritcaria acute hives, chronic hives


Physical Uritcaria

Sunlight, heat, cold, water, pressure, vibration or exercise may cause physical uritcaria. Sun hives (solar uritcaria) form within minutes of sun exposure and typically fades within one to two hours. Cold hives (cold uritcaria) appear when the skin warms after exposure to cold or after prolonged chilling. Hives that form in response to the cold or the water when swimming, for example can cause wheezing, flushing and fainting.

Dermatographic Uritcaria

Dermatographic Uritcaria forms after firmly stroking or scratching the skin, and can often occur with other forms of hives. It affects about five percent of the population. Most with this condition are generally healthy. Dermatographism may last for months or even years.

Acute Hives

This is usually the result of an allergic reaction. This type of hive typically lasts less than six weeks. Acute hives may appear within minutes to two hours after swallowing certain foods or medications can be caused by an infection. Applying certain chemicals to the skin can cause contact hives. People with this type of reaction often can easily identify and eliminate the cause. Insect bites, internal diseases, pressure, cold, or sunlight are other triggers for hives.

Chronic Hives

Chronic hives last more than six weeks. The root cause is much more difficult to identify and only a small percentage of patients are able to identify it. Some causes include: hidden infections, or other internal problems. A review of your medical history by your dermatologists and possible blood work and a biopsy might be required to determine a root cause.


Food: Fresh foods cause hives more often than cooked foods. Strawberries, food additives and preservatives are common triggers for non-allergic hives.

  • In children
    • Milk
    • Eggs
    • Peanuts
  • In adults
    • Nuts
    • Shellfish
    • Eggs

Drugs: Almost any medication, prescription and non-prescription can cause hives.

  • Antibiotics
  • Pain Medications
  • Antacids
  • Vitamins
  • Herbal Supplements
  • Eye And Eardrops
  • Laxatives Or Any Other Non-Prescription Item


  • Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (colds are a common cause of hives in children)
  • Hepatitis
  • Bacterial And Fungal Infections
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