Chronic hives (urticaria)

Hives are a skin reaction that causes red or white itchy welts. The welts vary in size and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course.

Chronic hives are a condition in which the welts last more than six weeks or recur over months or years. Chronic hives usually aren't life-threatening. But the condition can be very uncomfortable and interfere with sleep and daily activities.

Often, the cause of chronic hives is not clear. In some cases, chronic hives are a sign of an underlying health problem, such as thyroid disease or lupus.

You can try various treatments to relieve your symptoms. For many people, antihistamine and anti-itch medications provide relief from chronic hives.

Chronic hives are also called chronic urticaria (ur-tih-KAR-e-uh).

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Chronic hives signs and symptoms include:

  • Batches of red or white welts (wheals), usually on the face, trunk, arms or legs
  • Welts that vary in size, change shape, and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course
  • Itching, which may be severe
  • Swelling that causes pain or burning (angioedema), especially inside the throat and around the eyes, cheeks, lips, hands, feet and genitals
  • A tendency for signs and symptoms to flare with triggers such as heat, exercise and stress
  • A tendency for symptoms to recur frequently and unpredictably, sometimes for months or years

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have:

  • Severe hives
  • Hives that don't respond to treatment
  • Hives that continue to appear for several days

Seek emergency care if you:

  • Feel dizzy
  • Have severe chest tightness or trouble breathing
  • Feel your tongue or throat swelling

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