What are the symptoms of hives?

Symptoms of hives include itching and swelling of the skin, causing raised red or skin-colored welts. The welts may come and go quickly and may resolve within hours or remain in some form for weeks. They can change rapidly in both size and number. Hives may have any shape, though they usually have well-defined borders. If you press on a hive, it will turn white (blanch), and then regain its reddish color when released.

Hives are present only on the skin and are usually not associated with diseases in other organs. On rare occasions, hives can be a sign of a serious allergic reaction. Difficulty breathing, fainting, or swelling of the face or tongue may indicated a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction and require immediate emergency care.

Common symptoms of hives

Hive symptoms may come and go within minutes, or they may persist for hours or even days. You may experience the symptoms often or just occasionally. Common symptoms of hives include:

  • Itching feeling
  • Redness
  • Swelling in other parts of your body, including your hands, feet, or around your eyes
  • Welts that are raised and red or skin-colored

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, hives may be a symptom of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue
  • Tightness in your chest or throat
  • Wheezing (whistling sound made with breathing)

What are hives?

Hives are raised welts that can appear anywhere on your skin and are usually itchy. The medical term for hives is urticaria. Hives are usually red or skin-colored, and they vary in size from a pea to a dinner plate. Hives are most often triggered by the release of histamines in the skin, which causes localized swelling, burning and itching. Hives can result from allergic reactions or may b... Read more about hivesintroduction


What causes hives?

Hives are often triggered by an allergy. An allergy causes the release of histamines, which dilate the blood vessels in your skin, thus increasing blood flow to the area. The increased blood flow causes the redness and swelling that appear as a hive on your skin. Additionally, histamines cause the itching that is often associated with hives.... Read more about hivescauses


How are hives treated?

Although hives can be very uncomfortable, they generally respond to treatment. Antihistamines can block the action of the chemical mediators that are responsible for hives. Certain steroids may also be effective in reducing hives. Additionally, you can reduce the discomfort associated with hives by avoiding hot or cold water or tight-fitting clothing.... Read more about hivestreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System