Hives (urticaria)

Hives are a histamine response by mast cells in your skin to some triggering factor.


They look like white bumps – think nettle sting – and they itch. The problem with hives is that we don’t usually know the trigger. It can be an allergen, but it doesn’t have to be. Some people seem to get hives easily, and others just don’t. Maybe it’s related to atopy. The fact is, most of the time, you won’t know why your hives appear. It’s an intermittent thing, too, which makes finding its cause very difficult.


The usual treatment for hives is to rule out drug reactions or particular foods that may be causing problems.

Then, oral antihistimines are offered. There are different kinds, and your doctor will help you with this.

For severe or ongoing urticaria, especially if it’s attended by deeper inflammation, called angioedema, there is more aggressive medication. You can ask your doctor about ‘immunosuppressant’ drugs, or the newer ‘biologic’ agents.

Questions about your skin? Ask our dermatologists online for $35.