Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Hives facts
- What are hives (urticaria) and angioedema?
- What causes hives and angioedema?
- What are the different kinds of hives?
- What are the symptoms and signs of ordinary urticaria (ordinary hives)?
- What are the causes of ordinary hives?
- What are the causes of chronic hives?
- Are there other conditions that mimic hives?
- What is the treatment for hives?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
What are the different kinds of hives?
Hives fall into two categories: acute urticaria (ordinary hives which resolve after six to eight weeks) and chronic urticaria (which continue longer than six to eight weeks).
What are symptoms and signs of ordinary hives?
Ordinary hives flare up suddenly and usually for no specific reason. Welts appear, often in several places. They flare, itch, swell, and go away in a matter of minutes to hours, only to appear elsewhere. This sequence may go on from days to weeks. Most episodes of hives last less than six weeks. Although that cutoff point is arbitrary, hives that last more than six weeks are often called "chronic."
What are the causes of ordinary hives?
As noted above, many cases of ordinary hives are "idiopathic," meaning no cause is known. Others may be triggered by viral infections. A few may be caused by medications, usually when they have been taken for the first time a few weeks before. (It is uncommon for drugs taken continuously for long periods to cause hives or other reactions.) When a medication is implicated as a cause of hives, the drug must be stopped, since no skin or blood test will prove the connection. In most cases, drug-induced hives will go away in a few days. If a drug is stopped and the hives do not go away, this is a strong indication that the medication was not in fact the cause of the hives.
Some medications, like morphine, codeine, aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen [Advil]), cause the body to release histamine and produce urticaria through nonallergic mechanisms.
Despite the reputation of hives being an "allergic" condition, there is characteristically no obvious connection to a provoking substance. In this situation, allergy testing is not usually helpful.
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