What are hives?
Hives are areas of itchy, swollen red bumps, plaques (also known as wheals), or welts on the skin. Individual hives last less than 24 hours, but new ones form in their place.
A group of hives can last up to six weeks or more.
Hives affect many different people. About 20 percent of people get hives at some point, and they affect people of all ages, races, and genders.
What causes hives?
Many different factors can trigger a case of hives. Some of these include:
- Allergic reactions to medications, insect bites, foods, or other substances
- Mast-cell releasing agents (drugs such as opioids that cause a type of white blood cell to release its contents)
- Reactions to cold, pressure, vibration, or sunlight
- Various diseases, such as vascular, connective tissue, or autoimmune conditions
What do hives look like?
Hives are usually shaped like ovals or arches. Hives next to each other can merge, and the new hive can look wavy or like sets of rings. Hives usually appear on:
- Areas exposed to pressure
- Areas exposed to sun
- Upper torso
Acute hives usually are small bumps. They can be larger, red bumps with a pale area in the center, and the skin may be swollen around them. Chronic hives are usually red bumps of different sizes, and they may have swollen skin.
What are my treatment options for hives?
The best way to treat hives is to prevent or avoid them in the first place. Cool, wet compresses and loose-fitting clothes can help relieve the itching and swelling, as can over-the-counter antihistamines.
Our skin doctors will work with you to determine what exposure caused your hives. You’ll need to avoid exposure to the triggering agent in the future to prevent possible future cases of hives.
Prescription antihistamines are often an effective treatment. Depending on your situation, you may only need one type of antihistamine or a combination of medications from different types.