Hives

ExitCare ImageHives are itchy, red, swollen areas of the skin. They can vary in size and location on your body. Hives can come and go for hours or several days (acute hives) or for several weeks (chronic hives). Hives do not spread from person to person (noncontagious). They may get worse with scratching, exercise, and emotional stress.

CAUSES

  • Allergic reaction to food, additives, or drugs.

  • Infections, including the common cold.

  • Illness, such as vasculitis, lupus, or thyroid disease.

  • Exposure to sunlight, heat, or cold.

  • Exercise.

  • Stress.

  • Contact with chemicals.

SYMPTOMS

  • Red or white swollen patches on the skin. The patches may change size, shape, and location quickly and repeatedly.

  • Itching.

  • Swelling of the hands, feet, and face. This may occur if hives develop deeper in the skin.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver can usually tell what is wrong by performing a physical exam. Skin or blood tests may also be done to determine the cause of your hives. In some cases, the cause cannot be determined.

TREATMENT

Mild cases usually get better with medicines such as antihistamines. Severe cases may require an emergency epinephrine injection. If the cause of your hives is known, treatment includes avoiding that trigger.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Avoid causes that trigger your hives.

  • Take antihistamines as directed by your caregiver to reduce the severity of your hives. Non-sedating or low-sedating antihistamines are usually recommended. Do not drive while taking an antihistamine.

  • Take any other medicines prescribed for itching as directed by your caregiver.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your caregiver.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have persistent or severe itching that is not relieved with medicine.

  • You have painful or swollen joints.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a fever.

  • Your tongue or lips are swollen.

  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing.

  • You feel tightness in the throat or chest.

  • You have abdominal pain.

These problems may be the first sign of a life-threatening allergic reaction. Call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.).

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.