Can Hives Be a Sign of Something Serious?

Person scratching at hives on their back Can Hives Be a Sign of Something Serious?

Hives (urticaria) are a fact of life. Most people will experience these itchy, red welts at some point in their lives for any number of reasons. Fortunately, most hives outbreaks aren’t a cause for concern and disappear on their own. That said, hives can also suggest a more serious problem. Understanding the root causes of your hives and what to look for when an outbreak occurs can help you determine how to deal with this condition and whether or not to worry.

What to Know About Hives

What Causes Hives, Anyway?

Most hives result from an acute allergic response to some environmental irritant, food, or medication. Ingesting or coming into direct contact with one of these allergens can cause your body to produce histamines, which in turn may lead to a sudden breakout of hives. Stress, exercise, excessive sweating, and tight clothing can also trigger hives. In some cases, hives are a symptom of an underlying illness or infection. Finally, chronic hives refer to hives that linger for a while and/or recur at various intervals -- the underlying reason for chronic hives can be difficult to discover.

A Typical Hives Outbreak Is Nothing to Worry About

No one enjoys breaking out in hives, but as mentioned earlier, most instances of hives are not anything to worry about. Indeed, the majority of individual hives don’t linger any more than 24 hours, and most disappear within a span of minutes or hours after eruption. Of course, these mild, acute allergic responses can be annoying and somewhat painful depending on their location, duration, and severity. The good news is that they are often easily treatable. Antihistamines are the primary over-the-counter hives treatment, quickly reducing the body’s inflammatory allergic response. Additionally, you can reduce the duration of your hives outbreak by keeping your hands away from them, keeping them away from hot water, and soaking in a lukewarm bath with either baking soda or colloidal oatmeal for fast relief.

When Hives Point to a Bigger Problem

Not all hives are so harmless, however. Those who suffer from chronic and/or severe hives may have a hard time preventing and treating eruptions. Moreover, chronic hives are sometimes a symptom of a deeper and more pernicious infection or disease, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and more. If you’re unaware that you harbor such an illness, regular hives outbreaks may be a notable sign. And even if your hives are merely the result of an allergic reaction, they can coincide with other severe and life-threatening allergic responses such as wheezing, trouble breathing, swelling of the tongue, dizziness, etc. In cases such as these, immediate medical intervention may be necessary to counteract the body’s overactive immune response.

Handling Your Hives

So, can hives be a sign of something serious? Yes, they can, even if most instances of hives are mild, easy to treat, and go away on their own. That said, if you’re ever concerned about a hives eruption, it’s always best to seek attention from your doctor and/or dermatologist. These medical professionals can help you discover your hives triggers so you can avoid them in the future. Moreover, they can provide a thorough examination to see whether an underlying disease or infection might be to blame for your chronic hives. Whatever the case, your dermatologist will help you prevent, treat, and manage your hives efficiently.


At Premier Dermatology Partners, our skin care experts are dedicated to helping each of our patients gain a stronger understanding of their skin and finding solutions that work for them. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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