Hives (Urticaria)

What Are Hives (Urticaria)?

Hives are itchy, reddened welts (bumps) that range from small spots to large patches of skin. Angioedema is a related kind of swelling that affects deeper layers in your skin.    

What Causes Hives?

Hives are a skin reaction that can be triggered by certain foods, medications or other substances. The itchy red welts can also be associated with viral illnesses, exercise, temperatures (hot and cold), or tight clothing. In certain cases, an allergic trigger for your hives may not be identified, which is common when a patient has chronic hives (lasting longer than six weeks).      

What Are the Signs of Hives?

Hives are:

  • Red or flesh-colored.
  • Extremely itchy.
  • Roughly oval or shaped like a worm.
  • Less than one inch to several inches across.
  • Have a short duration. (Most hives disappear within 24 hours.)

What Treatment for Hives (Urticaria) is Available?

A case of hives can usually be treated at home with over-the-counter non-sedating antihistamines, which reduce itching and swelling. Cortisone creams are only slightly effective in soothing the itching, but cool compresses can provide some relief. 

For severe hives, doctors may prescribe an oral corticosteroid drug — such as prednisone — to reduce swelling, redness and itching. If antihistamines and corticosteroids are ineffective, a doctor might prescribe drugs that target various aspects of the immune system. 

Take your child to a doctor if the hives persist for more than a few days.

Learn about treatment at Lifespan for more pediatric asthma and allergy conditions »