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Urticaria is a fancy word for hives. Now that you are less intimidated by this scary word, let’s learn more about this condition. This lesson will focus on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for those who are experiencing urticaria.

What Is Urticaria?

Rebecca is allergic to almonds. One day, one of Rebecca’s co-workers brought in cupcakes from a local bakery. Rebecca was careful to select her cupcake, but she accidentally ate a cupcake that had a vanilla almond cake batter. Thirty minutes pass, and Rebecca begins to see red, blotchy spots appear on her forearms. Her abdomen and chest begin to itch. She goes to the bathroom and looks in the mirror.

She is covered with red, itchy bumps. Rebecca is experiencing urticaria.If you have ever had hives or known someone who has had them, then you have experienced urticaria. Urticaria is the medical term for hives.

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So, what are hives? Hives are areas of the skin that become raised and itchy. They can either become red or can stay the same color as your skin. Hives can stay as small, itchy bumps or turn into large, swollen welts. These hives can stay in the part of the body where they originated from or can spread all over the body.

Red urticaria on the forearm of a patient.

Skin-colored urticaria on the back of a patient.
urticaria 2

What Causes Hives?

Hives are usually triggered by something from outside of the body.

These can include but are not limited to:

  • Medications
  • Food
  • Pollen
  • Pet hair and dander
  • Plants, such as poison ivy
  • Latex
  • Bites or stings from insects
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Exposure to extreme heat or cold
  • Exercise

Urticaria can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute urticaria occurs only when exposed to a triggering agent, such as the causes previously mentioned. Acute urticaria lasts for hours or for two to three days. Many times the patient knows the reason for their acute hives and knows how to avoid triggering agents.

Chronic urticaria lasts for a prolonged period of time. These hives can last weeks or months and come back without warning. These hives usually happen because the patient has a medical problem with their thyroid or immune disorders.


The symptoms of urticaria are obvious and lead to a quick diagnosis. Symptoms include:

  • Red or skin-colored bumps
  • Itchy feeling at site of the bumps
  • The bumps can grow and shrink in size and can appear and disappear while exposed to the triggering agent
  • The bumps turn white when pressure is applied to them

Most of the time, hives are more of a nuisance than anything, but if the hives begin to affect the airway or breathing of the patient, then it can turn into a life-threatening situation very quickly.


Treatment of urticaria can be as simple as eliminating whatever it was that caused the hives to start in the first place.

If the itching and discomfort caused by the hives is bothering the patient, he or she can be given an antihistamine. An antihistamine is a medication that blocks the histamine production in your body. The production of histamines is what causes hives to occur.Patients who experience hives should see an allergist. An allergist is a specialist who can test you to see what triggers are causing you to have urticaria.

This way you can avoid the triggers and keep the hives from reoccurring. If you know that you have triggers that cause urticaria, make sure to avoid them, and let your doctor know about those triggers before undergoing any medical procedures.

Lesson Summary

Urticaria is the medical term for hives. Hives are itchy and can appear as red or skin-colored bumps on the skin. They can be caused by several things including medications, food, and pollen.

For many patients, hives are a nuisance and can be treated by avoiding the triggering item, but some patients can experience difficulty with their airway and breathing, which can lead to a life-threatening emergency. Hives can also be treated with antihistamine medication. Patients who experience urticaria should seek the help of an allergist to pinpoint exactly what is causing the hives so that it can be avoided in the future.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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