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Hives are bumps that can pop up on your skin when you’ve been exposed to something you’re allergic to or that bothers your body. Your own sweat, cold, sunlight or the light pressure of a purse strap can cause hives; this is called inducible hives. It only develops when something that causes hives for you touches the skin.

Most hives are very itchy; they can be as small as a pinhead or several inches across. They may appear alone or in a group, and some join together to form large patches called plaques. They’re usually harmless and temporary. A single hive can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours; most clear within 24 hours. If new hives continue to appear for six weeks or longer, you likely have a condition called chronic inducible hives.

Some people develop swelling deep in their skin or the moist tissue that lines the mouth/lip, eyelids or other areas. This is called angioedema and is usually harmless. Yet it can be life-threatening if it causes swelling in your mouth or throat, problems breathing or racing heart.

If you notice rapidly appearing and disappearing red or skin-colored bumps on your skin, it is unlikely to be bug bites. Instead, this could be a case of hives, which are itchy, raised, red dots or welts that can appear on the skin. Hives can be triggered by various substances and situations, often starting as an itchy patch of skin. If you suspect you have hives or any other skin condition, the dermatologists at The Art of Skin Dermatology can provide assistance. Our practice offers comprehensive treatments for a wide range of skin conditions, including hives and chronic hives. To schedule an appointment and learn more about the skin conditions we treat, please contact the dermatologists at The Art of Dermatology today.

What Are Hives?

Hives, also referred to as urticaria, welts, weals, or nettle rash, manifest as itchy, raised, red bumps or patches on the skin’s surface. These irritating marks can be triggered by an allergen or a substance that causes an allergic response. The size of hives can vary greatly, ranging from tiny welts resembling the tip of a pen to larger splotches resembling a dinner plate. Sometimes, these welts may merge together, forming even larger plaques. When the welts occur deeper beneath the skin, it is known as angioedema, which can happen alongside hives. Hive welts can emerge on any part of the body covered in skin. They may appear and disappear repeatedly as the reaction progresses. Hives can be red, pink, or flesh-colored and may cause a stinging or painful sensation. In most cases, hives are a temporary issue that can be managed with various allergy medications and will resolve on their own. However, chronic hives and hives accompanied by a severe allergic reaction are serious medical concerns that require immediate attention from a healthcare professional.

What Causes Hives?

Hives are a common condition that can affect anyone at any time. One of the main causes of hives is an allergic reaction to something you have come into contact with or ingested. When your body experiences an allergic reaction, it releases histamines into your bloodstream. Histamines are chemicals produced by the body to defend against potential threats like infections. However, in some individuals, histamines can cause symptoms such as swelling, itching, and redness of the skin, among other common hives symptoms. Allergic reactions to various triggers can lead to hives, including pollen, medications, certain foods, animal dander, dust mites, plants, and insect bites or stings. In addition to allergies, hives can also be triggered by stress, with extreme feelings of stress leading to stress hives. Excessive exposure to heat can cause heat hives, while hives can also occur due to exercise, illnesses, or infections. Prolonged exposure to hot or cold temperatures or irritation from excessive sweating can also result in hives. Hives can also be idiopathic (unknown cause ) . With so many potential triggers, it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of a hives outbreak.

It is important to note that hives can vary in severity and duration. Acute hives typically last for a short period and can be managed with over-the-counter antihistamines or other allergy medications. However, chronic hives, which persist for more than six weeks, require medical attention to identify and address the underlying cause. In some cases, hives may be accompanied by a severe allergic reaction known as angioedema, which can cause swelling in deeper layers of the skin and mucous membranes. This type of reaction requires immediate medical attention.

If you experience hives or suspect you have an allergic reaction, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional or dermatologist. They can help determine the cause of your hives and recommend appropriate treatment options to alleviate symptoms and prevent future outbreaks.

What Do Hives Look Like?

Hives can manifest in various forms on the skin, ranging from small to large, and can take on different shapes. They may appear as ring-shaped or oval welts, or they can have more irregular and non-circular shapes. In many cases, hives can resemble insect bites, such as mosquito bites. They can be red and inflamed, with a red halo surrounding them. However, hives can also present as smooth, raised bumps or markings on the skin that are flesh-colored. When pressed with a finger, these markings may temporarily turn pale or white before returning to their original color. Hives can change in size, merge together to form larger plaques, appear in clusters or batches, spread to other areas of the body, and even undergo changes in shape and color.

During a hive flare-up, individuals may experience stinging, itching, or burning sensations. The affected areas can swell, disappear, and then reappear within a short period of time or as the reaction progresses. These flare-ups can occur multiple times in a day or persist for weeks or even months. While hives can appear on any part of the body, they are most commonly found on the face, neck, arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes. However, individuals with chronic hives may face disruptions to their daily routines, such as difficulty sleeping comfortably. They may also experience severe symptoms, including swelling of the lips, eyelids, tongue, and throat. This swelling may or may not be symmetrical and can cause significant pain and a burning sensation.

Hives Symptoms

Individuals with known allergies are at a higher risk of developing hives compared to those without allergies. This includes individuals who are on medications or may unknowingly come into contact with substances they are allergic to. People who are already ill or have pre-existing infections or health conditions may also be more susceptible to hives. Hives can occur anywhere on the body.

It is crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you develop hives around your tongue or throat or experience difficulty breathing, as this can be a sign of a severe allergic reaction.

The common signs of hives include slightly raised, pink, red, or flesh-colored welts, bumps, or swellings. These welts can appear individually or in groups and may cover a large area of the body. Hives can also appear and disappear quickly, reappearing on the same or different parts of the body. They can be itchy, swollen, and may sting or burn. The bumps can be small and round, ring-shaped, or large and have a random shape. Additionally, hives can grow larger, change shape, and spread to other parts of the body. If you experience these symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Hives Vs. Rash

Hives and skin rashes may share some similarities in terms of their appearance and symptoms, but they are distinct conditions. Hives are a specific type of rash characterized by swollen, red, pink, or skin-colored bumps on the skin that appear and disappear rapidly. When pressed, hives tend to turn white temporarily. Both hives and other rashes can cause inflammation, discomfort, and itching. In some cases, hives may produce a sensation of heat on the skin, similar to a heat rash (miliaria), which can be caused by excessive exposure to hot and humid weather. While hives and psoriasis may share certain characteristics, they are different conditions. Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disorder characterized by the rapid accumulation of skin cells, leading to the formation of thick skin plaques and lesions. In contrast, hives typically present as raised, smooth bumps that appear suddenly and can disappear just as quickly. It is important to consult a healthcare professional or dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for any skin condition.

Types Of Hives

There are different types of hives, including acute hives, chronic hives, and physical hives.

  1. Acute Hives: Acute hives are characterized by hives or swelling that occur and last for less than six weeks at a time. They typically come on suddenly and are often caused by an allergic reaction to certain foods, medications, or other substances.
  2. Chronic Hives: Chronic hives are characterized by hives that persist for more than six weeks. In most cases, the exact cause of chronic hives is unknown, although it is believed to be related to an autoimmune response.
  3. Physical Hives: Some individuals may develop hives in specific situations. For example, exposure to cold, heat, or sunlight can trigger hives on the skin. Hives can also be caused by vibrations, pressure, exercise, or sweating. These physical hives typically appear within an hour after exposure.

It is important to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of hives and to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

The Treatment

When a patient presents with hives, dermatologists at The Art of Skin Dermatology can typically diagnose the condition by observing the skin. However, determining the exact cause of the hives can be challenging, especially in cases of chronic hives that persist for more than six weeks. To identify the underlying cause, dermatologists will review the patient’s health history, ask relevant questions, and conduct a physical examination of the skin. Additional tests, such as allergy tests, blood work, or a skin biopsy, may be recommended to further investigate the cause of the hives. A skin biopsy involves removing a small piece of the affected skin for microscopic examination.

For mild-to-moderate cases of hives, the most common treatment is non-sedating antihistamines. These medications help alleviate symptoms associated with hives, such as itching. Antihistamines may also be prescribed for chronic hives. Other medications that target inflammation, redness, and swelling, such as cortisone, dapsone, or omalizumab, may be prescribed by the dermatologist. In most cases, hives are not a serious condition, and they may resolve on their own within a year for individuals with chronic hives. However, if the hives persist or become severe, it is important to seek prompt medical care.

It is recommended to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and ongoing management of hives.

Are Hives Contagious?

No. Hives are not contagious. Hives themselves are not contagious, meaning you cannot develop hives by coming into contact with someone who has them. Hives are a reaction of the body’s immune system to certain triggers, such as allergens or infections. While the triggers that can cause hives, such as bacterial infections, viruses, strep throat, or the common cold, may be contagious, the hives themselves are not directly transmitted from person to person. It is important to note that each individual may have different triggers for their hives, and what causes hives in one person may not necessarily cause them in another.

How Long Do Hives Last?

There are various hive symptoms that can persist for different durations, ranging from a few hours to several weeks or even months. While some cases of hives may eventually vanish without any medical intervention, it is advisable to take doctor-recommended medications like antihistamines or corticosteroids to expedite the disappearance of hives and alleviate the accompanying symptoms. In instances of chronic hives, they tend to endure for an extended period, and identifying the root cause becomes challenging. Although hives may spontaneously disappear after weeks or months, there is also a possibility of recurring episodes.

How To Prevent Hives

To prevent hives and alleviate symptoms, consider the following tips:

  1. Identify and avoid triggers such as certain foods, medications, pollen, pet dander, latex, and insect stings. If you suspect a medication is causing hives, discontinue its use and consult your primary medical provider.
  2. Use over-the-counter anti-itch medications like non-prescription antihistamines to relieve itching.
  3. Soothe the affected area by applying a cold washcloth, ensuring complete coverage to prevent scratching.
  4. Take cool baths or showers with oatmeal powder added for temporary relief and symptom control.
  5. Opt for loose, smooth-textured clothing made from 100% cotton. Avoid tight, scratchy, or woolen garments that may irritate the skin.
  6. Minimize sun exposure, as well as exposure to heat and humidity, when outdoors.

For more information about hives, treatments, or any other skin condition, please reach out to The Art of Skin Dermatology to schedule a dermatology appointment.

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Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that causes itchy, red, irritated skin. Its first sign is often itchy skin, followed by a rash and possibly blisters. You can get allergic contact dermatitis when things you touch, or that touch you, annoy or irritate your skin. Did you know that more than 15,000 things that touch our skin can cause an allergic reaction—including fragrances and nickel?

In some cases, people get contact dermatitis when the sun hits their skin. The American Academy of Dermatology gives this example: a bartender may squeeze lemons and limes while indoors and never develop a rash. However, when they squeeze lemons and limes outdoors on a sunny day, a painful rash and large blisters develop where the sunlight hits the skin coated with juices.

Contact dermatitis is not contagious.


Eczema is a condition that makes your skin irritated and itchy. It often causes a rash that’s red, blistery, oozing, scaly or brownish. There are several types of eczema, including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, nummular eczema and dyshidrotic eczema. However, the most common is atopic dermatitis. Millions live with atopic dermatitis. In fact, one in 10 Americans has atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is often called atopic eczema or simply eczema. It usually develops by age five, but people of all ages, from newborns to adults 65 years of age and older, live with this condition. Atopic dermatitis is not contagious.

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