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Adeel Arshad

Authored on 24 January 2024 by Adeel Arshad,

Reviewed 24 January 2024 by Dr Ruch Karunadasa.

What are Hives/Urticaria

Hives are a raised, itchy rash that forms on the skin. It might appear on just one portion of the body or cover the whole body. Urticaria is the medical term for hives. It is also known as welts, wheals, or nettle rash.

The rash is usually itchy and can range in size from a few millimetres to the size of a palm.

Although the area affected by hives may change in appearance within 24 hours, the rash normally resolves within a few days.

Hives can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Certain foods such as nuts, eggs, shellfish, and peanuts
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Blood transfusions
  • Latex
  • Medications, such as antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa), aspirin, and ibuprofen
  • Dander from pets
  • Pollen
  • Viral infections, such as the common cold, infectious mononucleosis, and hepatitis
  • Bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections, and strep throat

Types of Hives/Urticaria

Approximately 20% of the population is known to suffer from hives at some point in their lives. Scratching, alcoholic beverages, exercise, and emotional stress can all make it worse.

Urticaria can be classified into chronic, acute, or urticaria vasculitis.

  1. Acute hives last for 6 weeks or less and can be caused by exposure to an allergen or irritant, such as certain foods or animal dander.
  2. Chronic urticaria is a long-term condition. Doctors are not exactly sure why it happens, but it could be related to a chronic health problem or an autoimmune disorder. A person suffering from chronic urticaria may get hives every day for months or years.
  3. Aside from acute and chronic hives, a far rarer type of urticaria known as urticaria vasculitis can also occur, which causes blood vessels inside the skin to become inflamed. In these conditions, the weals are more painful, persist longer, and can leave a bruise.

Hives cannot be contracted by another person. However, hives might be caused by a communicable infection in some situations.

The remedies and treatments for hives are discussed below.

Treatment of Hives

Most cases of urticaria don't need treatment, because the symptoms are usually mild and often get better within a few days.

Treatment for Short-term (acute) urticaria

If your symptoms are uncomfortable or persistent, antihistamines are available from pharmacies over the counter.

However, if your symptoms worsen, you should consult a doctor immediately. For severe symptoms a doctor may recommend additional medications, such as a brief course of corticosteroid tablets.


They work by inhibiting the action of histamine, a chemical found in the skin that can cause allergic reactions such as hives. Antihistamines that do not produce drowsiness are preferred not just because they are more effective and last longer (they can be used once a day), but also because they have fewer side effects.

Corticosteroid Tablets

If your symptoms are severe, you may be prescribed a brief course of high-dose corticosteroid medications, such as prednisolone.

Corticosteroids suppress your immune system, which alleviates urticaria symptoms. A course of prednisolone lasting 3 to 5 days is typically advised.

Treatment for Long-term (chronic) urticaria

Chronic urticaria treatment entails attempting to control your symptoms and avoiding any triggers that aggravate them.

You may be referred to a dermatologist if you have persistent urticaria and angioedema. This is because angioedema can be more significant and can cause breathing issues.


Like in acute urticaria, antihistamines can be used to treat chronic urticaria as well. You may need to take them regularly for as long as your symptoms persist.

If your symptoms do not improve following treatment, a larger dose may be prescribed. Increasing the dose can help to alleviate symptoms that did not respond to previous treatment. This, however, should only be done with the guidance of the doctor in charge of your treatment.

Menthol cream

Because it relieves itching, menthol cream can be used instead of, or in addition to, antihistamines. This cream's dosage should be prescribed by your GP.

Corticosteroid tablets

More severe cases of urticaria can be treated with short courses of corticosteroid pills, such as prednisolone. Corticosteroid pills may cause the following adverse effects:

  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Weight gain
  • Increased appetite
  • Mood changes including anxiety

Because of these potential side effects, long-term use of corticosteroids for chronic urticaria is not advised.

H2 antihistamines

H2 antihistamines can help treat chronic urticaria because they constrict blood vessels, reducing skin redness.

H2 antihistamines can be used as an alternative to, or in addition to, H1 antihistamines.

Other Treatments for Chronic Hives

Besides the above-mentioned drugs, depending on your specific condition, the GP or the dermatologist may prescribe you;

  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists
  • Ciclosporin
  • Omaluzimab

They will also guide you to avoid specific triggers that might cause urticaria.

Skin consultation £19.99

Skin consultation £19.99

Our simple consultation first process enables you to complete a consultation with a doctor, submitting photos of the affected skin and answering a set of questions that will enable a diagnosis where possible.

Common skin conditions can even include:

START SKIN CONSULTATION £19.99 Find out more about the PrivateDoc skin clinic

Frequently asked questions about Urticaria

  • Are hives infectious/contagious?

    Many causes of hives are not communicable, but the origin of the hives must be determined because viruses, bacteria, and parasites can all cause hives which could be transmitted from person to person.

  • What does a hive look like?

    A hive is a raised, itchy "wheal" or a bump on the skin that is surrounded by redness. It can happen anywhere on the body. Hives in specific places, such as the eyelid or ear, might appear highly enlarged and swollen.

  • How can I avoid and prevent hives?

    If you can identify what caused your hives, you can avoid them in the future. However, if the hives return and the cause is unknown, you may need to take certain medications every day to prevent this from happening.

  • What self-care routine should I follow if I have hives?

    While you're waiting for the hives and swelling to disappear, you should;

    • Avoid using boiling water. Instead, use lukewarm water
    • Work and sleep in a cool place if possible
    • Use a mild, gentle soap
    • Cool compresses or moist towels should be applied to the affected regions
    • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing

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