In this Article

What are hives?

Hives are a reaction that may be caused by an allergy or may be an immune response, like an autoimmune condition. It is caused by release of histamine that can cause swelling and itching, like a reaction after some bug bites.


If you have hives, you may have the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • In some cases difficulty breathing

When to See a Doctor

Consult your primary care provider if your hives don’t go away after several days, or worsen to the point where you find it difficult to sleep or breath.

Diagnosis and Tests

In addition to asking you questions about your symptoms and lifestyle, your provider may use a variety of tools to diagnose and confirm if you have hives:

  • Physical examination and history are the main way to diagnosis and treat hives.
    • Skin allergy test – Possible allergen samples are applied to skin and then observed for reaction if the hives are triggered by allergens
    • Blood testing may be done to rule out associated diseases.


Prescription and over-the-counter medications may also be recommended, including:

  • Oral antihistamines are generally the main treatment


The best way to prevent hives is to avoid triggers. As many people with hives have no identifiable triggers, prevention is not always possible, so it is important to use medications as recommended.