Urticaria, also known as hives, is an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps or plaques (wheals) on the skin that appear suddenly — either as a result of the body’s reaction to certain allergens or for unknown reasons.

Hives usually cause itching, but may also burn or sting. They can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, lips, tongue, throat, or ears. Hives vary in size (from a pencil eraser to a dinner plate), and may join together to form larger areas known as plaques. They can last for hours, or up to one day before fading.


  • Treatment for acute urticaria includes non-sedating antihistamines taken regularly for several weeks.
  • Antihistamines, such as cetirizine or fexofenadine, help by blocking the effects of histamines and reducing the rash and stopping the itching.
  • Various antihistamines can be purchased in pharmacies or online.
  • Some antihistamines cause drowsiness, especially if the user also consumes alcohol. Some are not suitable during pregnancy unless prescribed by a doctor.
  • Patients with angioedema may need to see an allergist, an immunologist, or a dermatologist. Angioedema can cause potentially serious breathing difficulties.
  • If there is swelling of the tongue or lips, or if breathing becomes difficult, the doctor may prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector, for example, EpiPen, in case of emergencies.
  • Patients should avoid known triggers, if possible.
  • Genetics and hormones. Usually self-limiting, it’s commonly seen in teenagers, though frequent in adulthood too. Stress can induce changes in hormones that can lead to acne.

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