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What are hives (urticaria) and angioedema?

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. Hives usually last 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 accounting 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 worst.

Swelling deeper in the skin that may accompany hives is called angioedema. This swelling of the hands and feet, as well as the lips or eyelids, can be as dramatic as it is brief.

Pictures of hives
What does urticaria (hives) look like?
Return to Hives (Urticaria & Angioedema)

See what others are saying

Comment from: M Namaste, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: September 08

I had been suffering from psoriasis for almost ten years. Recently I did a transition from male to female. I used hormone replacement last few months and I decided to stop the hormone replacement for the reason that my skin was getting urticaria (hives), plus I was overweight leading to chronic fatigue. At this time the urticaria started to get worse. I used a cream call Eumovate that was prescribed to relieve the psoriasis and I personally think was this cream that caused the urticaria. I am getting annoyed not finding control of this using the drugs that have been prescribed.

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Comment from: Julie64, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: July 26

An old remedy that works to counteract allergic reactions is 1 tsp of cream of tartar in a small glass of water. Depending on how bad the hives are, this may take a dose in the morning and a dose in the evening for a few days. If mild case one dose and within a few hours hives will be gone. Look up cream of tartar (spice section). This is all natural. I had giant hives and the doctor told they would take a week and with this remedy they were gone in 3 days. My grandpa had great remedies that do work.

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Comment from: lyn, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: June 22

The worst case of hives for me, face swollen up, and large patches on backside, arms, hands back of legs. I think I'm going to scratch myself to death. Nothing helps.

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