Hives are welts or raised bumps on the skin that are usually itchy. They can be due to an allergic reaction to something you had contact with or ate.

Hives are welts or raised bumps on the skin that are usually itchy. They can be due to an allergic reaction to something you had contact with or ate.

Hives (itchy, red welts) usually occur as a result of an immune reaction in the body. The hives may be on one small section of the body or they can be more widespread. A hive typically turns white (blanches) when you press on its center. In many cases, the cause of hives is unknown. Some of the common causes of hives due to an allergy include:

  • Pollen
  • Medications (e.g.,penicillin, sulfa)
  • Insect bites and stings (e.g.,bees, mosquitoes)
  • Foods (e.g., shellfish, milk, eggs, peanuts)
  • Animals (e.g., cats, dogs)
  • Cosmetics and cleaning agents (e.g., soap, laundry detergent)

Some causes of hives that are not due to an allergy include:

  • Stress or extreme emotions
  • Extreme weather (hot or cold)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Illness (e.g., conditions that makes the body attack itself and destroy its own tissue (autoimmune diseases) and leukemia)
  • Infections (such mononucleosis)

It can be very difficult, even for a trained healthcare provider, to determine the exact cause of many cases of hives.

Hives may not occur the first time a person is exposed to a substance they are allergic to. Treatment is based on removing the source when possible, decreasing symptoms and monitoring for and treating severe reactions.

  • In some cases, a cream may be prescribed to help decrease itching.
  • Hot showers or baths should be avoided.
  • Over-the-counter medications (such as antihistamines) or a prescription medication may be recommended to help with the symptoms.
  • On many occasions, hives will spontaneously disappear without intervention.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you develop hives. Before seeing your healthcare provider, make a list of items you've come in contact before you noticed the hives. This can help identify potential causes.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms, how long you have had them, if you have had them before and if they are progressing or changing.
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • Do I need to see a specialist, such as a doctor that specializes in allergy and immunology?
  • What is the best treatment for my hives? What options are available?
  • How long will it take my symptoms to improve?
  • What are some of the complications of hives? Am I at high risk for complications?
  • If medication is recommended, how long will I need to take it? What are the possible side effects?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?


Also known as:

Red Skin
Allergy helps consumers determine the average cost of common medical procedures in their location. By gathering and analyzing data from leading insurance providers across the US, patients can compare the estimated price of common medical procedures to determine their approximate out-of-pocket expenses. All rates are approximations and not guarantees based on data that is available to the consumer. There are currently 638 procedures available in our database. These results and the information contained within should in no way take the place of actual medical advice.

Do not avoid getting health care based on the information on this site. Not affiliated with any insurance provider, hospital, or medical professional. Prices are just estimates based on available data, and may vary based on plan, state, and provider. For informational purposes only.