Rarely serious or dangerous, hives are one of the most common medical ailments that people of all ages may develop.

The medical name for hives is urticaria. The condition is characterized by a bumpy rash on the skin that is itchy and uncomfortable. Hives can range in size, appearing as a small rash or as large welts. Hives can occur as isolated areas of raised skin, or as connected patches that span a large area of the body. In most cases, hives are nothing to worry about, and will alleviate themselves within 24 hours to six weeks’ time. Anyone can develop hives, although they are especially common in children.

Causes of Hives

Hives are caused when the body releases the chemical histamine. Histamine is a compound that the body releases in response to inflammation, infection, or acute stress. When histamine is released, the blood vessels under the skin, called capillaries, are dilated. This dilation results in the appearance of hives.

Often times, the exact cause of why a person has hives is unknown. Usually, histamine is released in response to an allergic reaction; allergies are one of the most common causes of hives.

Other causes of hives may include:
  • Infections
  • Excessive scratching
  • Anxiety
  • Sun exposure
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Pressure or rubbing on the skin

Stress is a common cause of hives and could result in swelling on the face or neck, which may be dangerous.

Called stress hives or stress urticaria, these hives are caused by high levels of tension or anxiety. While these type of hives will go away on their own when stress levels decline, severe stress hives can cause serious swelling. Acute and chronic stress also takes a toll on your immune system, and may lead to other health complications.

Are Hives Contagious?

There is no infectious component to hives. As such, they are not contagious. If hives are caused by an infection; however, then the infection itself may be contagious. If contracted by another person, the other person’s body may release histamine to fight the infection, causing hives.

Treatment for Hives

Acute hives will most likely alleviate themselves within hours or days. Chronic hives, on the other hand, which are defined as hives that last more than six weeks, are more serious.

If hives are serious, painful, or itchy–regardless of whether or not they are acute or chronic–an antihistamine medication may be prescribed to treat the hives. If hives become chronic, a histamine may need to be taken daily.

Set Up Your Appointment With a Dermatologist Today

If you or your child is suffering from hives that are serious or that won’t go away, it is important that you seek medical care. Use the buttons below to find a clinician or location near you that treats hives.

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