When something is wrong, our body usually gives us some kind of indication, from pain or swelling to redness and irritation. One of these warning signs is hives, which are itchy red bumps that appear on the skin.


Also called “urticaria,” hives are often caused by:

  • Food: Allergic reactions to food are one of the most common causes for hives. Nut or nut products are often to blame, including peanuts and soy. Certain types of protein can also incite hives, including, fish, and shellfish. Even common staples like milk and wheat can lead some to break out into a rash.

  • Medication: While it may seem odd, certain medications can also be the culprit of hives. Common medications include anti-inflammatory drugs, also called NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or naproxen. Antibiotics, anti-seizure, and ACE inhibitors have been known to cause hives for some, as well as some drugs used to treat cancer. Talk to your doctor before starting any medication regime, and let her know immediately if you notice hives or other adverse reactions.

  • Other sources: Hives can be caused by the skin reacting to scratching, itching, or increased pressure. Exposure to cold air. water, or even too much sunlight can also cause hives. These reactions are usually temporary and may come and go over time.

When hives last longer or come back without cause, they are known as chronic urticaria. The most serious form of hives is angioedema, which involves swelling in the deeper layers of skins and can occur on the hands, feet, and face.


You can prevent hives by identifying the causes and striving to avoid them. For serious reactions, it may be helpful to share your allergy information with those around you, particularly those who you may share a food area with, such as classmates or coworkers. 


Most cases of hives respond to a simple dose of antihistamine, the drug found in allergy medications. In some cases, cortisone or epinephrine may be needed to keep the reaction at bay. If you suffer from severe allergies, your doctor may recommend you carry an emergency epinephrine dose with you at all times.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.