Hives (Urticaria)

Hives, also called urticaria, is a condition in which red, itchy and swollen/raised areas appear on the skin. Hives affect about 20% of the population at some time during their lives.

Hives can appear all over the body or be limited to one part of the body. They vary in size from very small to very large. They may change shape, move around or disappear and reappear over short periods of time. Hives can come and go within a few hours and typically do not last for more than about 24 hours.

Hives can sometimes be caused by an allergy to a medicine, food, an insect sting or something else to which your child has been in contact. If your child’s hives are due to an allergy, it is best to completely avoid the allergen. Hives can also occur with a viral infection.

If your child has hives on most days for more than 6 weeks, the cause may not be from an allergy. Hives lasting this long are called “chronic hives”. Most of the time, there is no known cause for chronic hives. The hives usually go away over time in most people, but they can last for years in other people. While hives are not life-threatening, they are very itchy and can make it hard to concentrate or sleep. There is no cure for chronic hives, but medicines can help the symptoms.

Some people with hives may also get swelling or puffiness, called angioedema. This can happen in the face, eyelids, lips, hands, feet and/or genitals.

Hives Program at Lurie Children's

Our experts provide thorough evaluation and comprehensive testing for hives, including education and treatment options.

Learn more about the Hives Program at Lurie Children's

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Hives

  • Red or white welts on the skin of the face, trunk, arms or legs
  • Hives that vary in size, change shape, or appear and fade repeatedly
  • Itching that can severe
  • Hives that flare with triggers such as heat, exercise and stress
  • Hives that reoccur frequently and unpredictably, sometimes for months of years.

What Causes Chronic Hives?

There is no single cause of chronic hives. They are most likely not due to an allergy to a medication, food or other allergen. Instead, chronic hives are caused by a reaction of the immune system from inside the body

What Can Be Done to Help Prevent or Soothe Chronic Hives?

  • Wear loose, light or cotton clothing
  • Avoid scratching
  • Avoid using soap with fragrance
  • Keep the skin from getting too dry and apply moisturizer a couple of times a day
  • Cool the affected area with a shower, fan, cool cloth or soothing lotion

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