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Understanding Hives

Hives are a common skin condition characterized by raised, itchy, and sometimes painful welts that can appear suddenly on the skin. They’re typically caused by an allergic reaction to a substance, such as certain foods, medications, or insect bites. They can also result from other factors such as stress, infections, or physical triggers like pressure or cold temperatures.
Treatment options for hives may include over-the-counter or prescription medications, avoidance of triggers, and certain lifestyle changes.

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Medications Prescribed for Hives


Medications that help relieve itching and reduce inflammation associated with hives. These medications – such as loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra, Mucinex Allergy) – work by blocking the effects of histamine, which is released by the body in response to an allergen.

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Anti-inflammatory medications that can help reduce the swelling and itching associated with hives. They are usually prescribed for short periods of time. Examples of corticosteroids used to treat hives include prednisone (Rayos, Deltasone) and methylprednisolone (Medrol).

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Medications that suppress the immune system and can be used to treat chronic hives that are not responsive to other treatments. Examples of immunosuppressants used to treat hives include cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral) and mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept, Myfortic).

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Common Questions About Hives

How do you get hives?

Hives are typically caused by an allergic reaction to something, such as certain foods, medications, or insect bites. They can also result from stress, infections, or physical triggers like pressure or cold temperatures. In some cases, the cause of hives may be unknown.

What do hives look like?

Hives, also known as urticaria, are raised, red or pink welts that often appear suddenly on the skin. They can vary in size, shape, and location on the body, and may be surrounded by a red or pale halo. Hives can be itchy or painful and can come and go quickly or last for several hours or days.

Do hives always itch?

Hives typically cause itching, which can range from mild to severe. The itching sensation is caused by the release of histamine and other chemicals in the skin in response to the immune system's reaction to triggers (such as allergies, medications, or other factors). Keep in mind that not all cases of hives cause itching, and the severity of itching can vary from person to person.

Are hives contagious?

No, hives are not contagious. They’re a type of allergic reaction that occurs within the body and are not caused by a virus or bacteria. Hives can be triggered by exposure to certain substances or by certain factors, but they cannot be passed from person to person through contact or other means.

In some cases, an underlying infection or illness may be the cause of hives; in these instances, the infection or illness may be contagious.

How long does it take for hives to go away?

The duration of hives can vary depending on the cause, but in most cases, they’ll go away within a few hours to a few days. Acute hives (defined as hives lasting less than six weeks) are typically short-lived and will usually disappear on their own without treatment. However, chronic hives (defined as hives lasting more than six weeks) can be more persistent and may require ongoing treatment to manage symptoms and prevent them from recurring.

If you’re experiencing hives that are severe or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention.

Can stress cause hives?

Yes, stress can be a trigger for hives in some individuals. Emotional stress, as well as physical stressors such as illness, can cause the body to release chemicals that can lead to hives. Stress can also weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to allergic reactions.

Not all cases of hives are caused by stress; other factors such as food allergies or medications may also be the culprit. If you’re experiencing hives, it’s important to identify the underlying cause and work with a licensed health provider to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

How do you get rid of stress hives?

The best way to get rid of stress hives is to manage the underlying stress. Relaxation techniques – such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga – can help reduce stress and alleviate hives. Over-the-counter antihistamines can also be taken to help relieve itching and reduce the swelling associated with hives.

If hives persist or are severe, prescription medications may be necessary. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

Can hives be a sign of something serious?

In most cases, hives are not a sign of a serious condition and will resolve on their own or with treatment. However, in rare cases, hives can be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disorder or a blood or liver disease.

If hives are accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, or fever, it is important to seek medical attention immediately as these may be signs of a severe allergic reaction or other serious condition.

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