Table of Contents
- Hives facts
- What are hives (urticaria) and angioedema? What do hives look like?
- What causes hives and angioedema? Are hives contagious? Does stress cause hives?
- What are the different kinds of hives?
- What are the signs and symptoms of ordinary hives?
- What are the risk factors and causes of ordinary hives?
- What are the causes of chronic hives?
- Are there other conditions that mimic hives?
- What specialists treat hives?
- What is the treatment for hives?
- What is the prognosis of hives?
Quick GuideRosacea, Acne, Shingles: Common Adult Skin Diseases
What are hives (urticaria) and angioedema? What do hives look like?
Hives (medically known as urticaria) appear on the skin as wheals that are red, very itchy, smoothly elevated areas of skin often with a blanched center. They appear in varying shapes and sizes, from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter anywhere on the body.
It is estimated that 20% of all people will develop urticaria at some point in their lives. Hives are more common in women than in men. One hallmark of hives are their tendency to change size rapidly and to move around, disappearing in one place and reappearing in other places, often in a matter of hours. An individual hive usually lasts no longer than 24 hours. An outbreak that looks impressive, even alarming, first thing in the morning can be completely gone by noon, only to be back in full force later in the day. Very few skin diseases occur and then resolve so rapidly. Therefore, even if you have no evidence of hives to show the doctor when you get to the office for examination, the diagnosis can be established based upon the accurate recounting of your symptoms and signs. Because hives fluctuate so much and so fast, it is helpful to bring along a photograph of what the outbreak looked like at its most severe point.
Swelling deeper in the skin that may accompany hives is called angioedema. This swelling of the hands and feet, as well as the face (lips or eyelids), can be as dramatic as it is brief.
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Fine, Lauren M., and Jonathan A. Bernstein. "Urticaria Guidelines: Consensus and Controversies in the European and American Guidelines." Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 15 (2015): 30.
Langley, Emily W., and Joseph Gigante. "Anaphylaxis, Urticaria, and Angioedema." Pediatrics in Review 34 (2013): 247-258.