Understanding Hives: What They Are and How to Treat Them

Understanding Hives: What They Are and How to Treat Them

Hives, also known as urticaria, are a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. They are characterized by red, itchy, and swollen raised bumps or welts that appear on the skin and can crop up anywhere on the body. If you have ever experienced hives, you know how uncomfortable and annoying they can be. In this article, we will look at everything you need to know about hives, including what they are, their symptoms, causes, and how to treat them.

What are Hives and What do they Look like?

Hives can present in different shapes and sizes, and their appearance can vary from person to person. They are usually raised or slightly elevated, and surrounded by redness, which is referred to as erythema. Hives can grow to be as large as 15 to 20 cm in diameter or even smaller than 2 millimeters. In most cases, they appear in clusters, and the areas affected can vary from one outbreak to another.

Symptoms of Hives:

Apart from the raised, red, and itchy bumps or welts on the skin, hives can also present with the following symptoms:
Swelling around the eyes, mouth, and throat
Difficulty breathing
Abdominal pain and diarrhea
Anxiety and confusion
Rapid heart rate
Headaches and dizziness

If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately as they could point to a more severe allergic reaction.

Causes of Hives:

Hives have various causes, including food allergies, insect bites, drug reactions, and medical conditions such as thyroid problems, lupus, or hepatitis. In most cases, hives result from an immune system overreaction to a trigger, which causes the release of chemicals that cause the blood vessels to leak fluid into the skin. The fluid build-up causes the skin to swell, leading to the itchy bumps known as hives.

Treatment for Hives:

Treatment for hives mainly involves identifying and eliminating the trigger causing the reaction. Over-the-counter antihistamines can relieve itching, swelling, and redness associated with hives. In cases where hives persist or are associated with more severe symptoms, consult a doctor for further diagnosis and treatment. For allergic reactions, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids, epinephrine, or other medications to control inflammation.

Preventing Hives:

While it's challenging to control the triggers for hives in some cases, there are steps you can take to prevent outbreaks. These include:
Avoiding known allergic triggers
Wearing protective clothing outdoors to avoid insect bites
Reading food labels and avoiding foods that trigger allergies
Taking medication as prescribed by your doctor
Avoiding extreme temperatures, which can cause hives to flare up


Hives can be annoying and uncomfortable, but they are treatable and often go away on their own after a few days or weeks. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can manage your symptoms and avoid future outbreaks. If you experience severe symptoms, seek prompt medical attention to avoid any life-threatening reactions. Remember, prevention is better than cure, so take steps to reduce your exposure to known triggers and follow your doctor's advice to stay healthy and hives free. Our founder, Tom, suffered hives from a reaction to his own sweat. Ensuring he took antihistamines prior to exercise, ski trips and hot holidays really helped the irritation, but be aware these can still appear after hot showers, saunas and steam rooms or anywhere that your body can heavily sweat - always best to be prepared with a fast acting antihistamine, just in case!

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