Hives or "urticaria" is the most common allergic rash. It presents as crops of slightly raised, clearly defined, curved shaped red patches scattered anywhere on the body.

They tend to arise and disappear over minutes to hours, only to reappear in another location. Often hives itch and can be very annoying. Fortunately, they usually subside on their own in a day or two. There are many causes of hives, almost all of them are related to contact or ingestion of something causing an allergic reaction. In children, it can be a minor viral illness. On rare occasions hives can be brought on by emotional stress, sudden temperature change or exercise. (Ironically, in any individual case, the exact cause is often unknown.)

When the condition persists for 6 weeks or more, it is called chronic urticaria and signifies some underlying medical problem.

Home Care for Hives

  • There are no tests to determine the cause of hives. If they happen more than once a year it may be possible to keep track of something similar that occurs, such as certain foods (berries, nuts or shellfish for example), or is in the surrounding environment (animals, plants, mold, etc.) before each episode. Often the cause is very elusive, but if found, avoid it!

  • If the hives are not particularly bothersome, leave them alone.

  • If the hives itch, oral drug store antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are helpful. (Your provider may prescribe a different medication to fit a specific circumstance.) Cool soaks or baths with a little baking soda in the water also provides temporary relief.

  • Avoid heat and tightly fitting clothing. Cotton is most comfortable.

  • Hives are not contagious, but the tendency toward getting them can be hereditary. Individuals with a history of significant allergies can have hives as part of a much more serious reaction and should be alerted to this possibility. If you are such a person, ask your physician about the advisability of carrying an adrenaline kit with you.


Call or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

  • You experience shortness of breath, wheezing or throat tightness.

  • Lips or tongue swelling

  • Rash that persists or is associated with joint pain or swelling

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