Hives (also known as urticaria) is an outbreak of swollen, itchy bumps on the skin that appear suddenly and that usually disappear in 24 hours or less. New hives may appear as old ones fade. Hives can last for a few days to much longer. A bout of hives usually lasts less than 6 weeks. These hives are called acute hives. If hives last more than 6 weeks, they are considered chronic hives. Hives typically result from an allergy, but there are also many other etiologies including exposure to certain infections, foods, medications, insect bites, stress, exercise or even exposure to the sun, water or hot or cold weather.
Hives typically appear as sudden pink to pale red, swollen bumps or wheals on the skin. They can itch, burn or sting. Hives range in size from millimeters to centimeters. They typically come and go on different areas of the body so that in a period of 24 hours some will appear in one area while others are fading in another area. This can continue as such for days or even weeks.
If symptoms are mild and bearable then no treatment is necessary. However, hives can cause intense, persistent itching and discomfort in which case antihistamines are the most common treatment. There are over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines; your dermatologist will help you determine what you need. When hives persist longer than 6 weeks you will likely need allergy testing and bloodwork. There are other immune modulating medications that can be prescribed in these more refractory cases.
*This webpage is for informational purposes and is not intended to be, and should not be relied upon as, medical advice. Any medical concerns should be addressed with a physician.