Hives rashes usually get better within a few minutes to a few days. You can often treat hives yourself.
Check if it's hives
The main symptom of hives is an itchy rash.
The rash can:
- be raised bumps or patches in many shapes and sizes
- appear anywhere on the body
- be on 1 area or spread across the body
- feel itchy, sting or burn
- look pink or red when affecting someone with white skin; the colour of the rash can be harder to see on brown and black skin
If you're not sure it's hives
Look at other rashes in babies and children.
A pharmacist can help with hives
A pharmacist can give you advice about antihistamine treatment to help a hives rash.
Tell the pharmacist if you have a long-term condition, because you might not be able to take antihistamines.
This treatment might not be suitable for young children.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- the symptoms do not improve after 2 days
- you're worried about your child's hives
- the rash is spreading
- hives keeps coming back (you may be allergic to something)
- you also have a high temperature and feel unwell
- you also have swelling under your skin (this might be angioedema)
Immediate action required: Call 999 if:
- your lips, mouth, throat or tongue suddenly become swollen
- you're breathing very fast or struggling to breathe (you may become very wheezy or feel like you're choking or gasping for air)
- your throat feels tight or you're struggling to swallow
- your skin, tongue or lips turn blue, grey or pale (if you have black or brown skin, this may be easier to see on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet)
- you suddenly become very confused, drowsy or dizzy
- someone faints and cannot be woken up
- a child is limp, floppy or not responding like they normally do (their head may fall to the side, backwards or forwards, or they may find it difficult to lift their head or focus on your face)
You or the person who's unwell may also have a rash that's swollen, raised or itchy.
These can be signs of a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.
Treatment for hives from a GP
A GP might prescribe menthol cream, antihistamines or steroid tablets.
If hives does not go away with treatment, you may be referred to a skin specialist (dermatologist).
You cannot always prevent hives
You get hives when something causes high levels of histamine and other chemicals to be released in your skin. This is known as a trigger.
Triggers can include:
- eating certain foods
- contact with certain plants, animals, chemicals and latex
- cold, such as cold water or wind
- hot, sweaty skin from exercise, emotional stress or eating spicy food
- a reaction to a medicine, insect bite or sting
- scratching or pressing on your skin, such as wearing itchy or tight clothing
- an infection
- a problem with your immune system
- water or sunlight, but this is rare
Try to find out what triggers hives for you, so you can avoid those triggers, if possible. This may help prevent an episode of hives.
Page last reviewed: 13 April 2021
Next review due: 13 April 2024