Hives rashes usually settle down within a few minutes to a few days. You can often treat hives yourself.
Check if you have hives
The hives rash can be raised patches in many shapes and sizes.
It can be in one area of the body or spread over a large area. It can appear anywhere on the body in both adults and children.
On white skin the rash may look red. On brown and black skin the colour of the rash might be harder to see.
The rash is usually itchy and sometimes feels like it's stinging or burning.
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 tablets to help a hives rash.
Tell the pharmacist if you have a long-term condition – you might not be able to take antihistamines.
They also may 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 generally unwell
- you also have swelling under the skin – this might be angioedema
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:
- you're wheezing
- you get tightness in your chest or throat
- you have trouble breathing or talking
- your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
You could be having a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) 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. This may help prevent an episode of hives.
Page last reviewed: 13 April 2021
Next review due: 13 April 2024