Hives (Urticaria)

Hives (Urticaria):

  • A single hive lasts a few minutes or hours, but the rash itself can last days or weeks, rarely longer
  • Most cases resolve within a few days
  • Are extremely itchy
  • Can be triggered by a:
    • New medication
    • Viral illness (cold, flu, diarrhea)
    • Food
      • The most common foods that cause hives are:
        • Raw tomatoes
        • Raw strawberries
        • Shellfish
        • Peanuts
        • These should be avoided during an attack of hives
  • Rarely hives can involve the lungs or internal organs
    • If you have symptoms of shortness of breath (difficulty breathing), swelling of the lips or tongue, fainting or feeling faint, you should go to an emergency department immediately
  • Use cool or lukewarm water when bathing, as hot water will make you more itchy
  • Wear loose clothing
    • Tight clothing can produce more hives where it rubs on the skin

General Measures:

  • Try to identify a cause
    • If you feel a new medication is causing your symptoms call the doctor who prescribed it to discuss changing it to something else
    • Talk to your doctor before stopping your medications
  • If you believe a food is causing your hives, avoid it
  • Keep a ‘food diary’ with a record of everything that you are eating and drinking to see if you can identify a cause
  • Lotions and creams are usually not helpful


  • Antihistamines are the most effective treatment
  • It is important to take the antihistamine regularly to control the hives
    • Taking antihistamines sporadically is much less effective
    • Some antihistamines are designed to be taken every 6 hours, whereas others are meant to be taken once daily
  • If the antihistamines are not effective the dose can be increased
    • Talk to your doctor about the maximum dose that you can take
  • Many antihistamines can make you sleepy
    • Be careful not to drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how the antihistamines are affecting you
  • Newer antihistamines are less likely to make you drowsy and are often very effective
    • Rarely they may also cause drowsiness
  • In more severe cases other pills may be used for treatment
  • Please talk to you doctor about your treatment options

What if you are interested to learn more?

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