Hives are raised, often itchy, red welts on the surface of the skin. They are usually an allergic reaction to food or medicine.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
When you have an allergic reaction to a substance, your body releases histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream. This causes itching, swelling, and other symptoms. Hives are a common reaction, especially in people with other allergies such as hay fever.
When swelling or welts occur around the face, especially the lips and eyes, it is called
Many substances can trigger hives, including:
- Animal dander (especially cats)
- Insect bites
- Shellfish, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, and other foods
Hives may also develop as a result of:
- Emotional stress
- Extreme cold or sun exposure
- Excessive perspiration
- Illness (including lupus, other
autoimmune diseases, and leukemia
- Infections such as
Review Date: 05/13/2011
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Associate, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.