Signs and Symptoms of Hives

The most obvious sign of hives is a raised area of skin called a wheal. In some cases, wheals join together and form a large rash that can eventually covers the whole body. Intense itching is another common symptom of hives. Hive symptoms may worsen with extreme heat, stress, or physical exertion.

Hives often occur on the face, hands, and/or feet. Some hives have reddish patches, called flares or "halos," that surround the wheals. The rash may change in shape and size and can disappear and then reappear, sometimes in different places on the body. Hives usually last from 30 minutes to 36 hours, but they may last weeks or months in some cases.

Urticaria Complications

Most cases of hives are not serious and do not result in complications. However, intense itching can make a person with hives very uncomfortable and scratching can increase the risk for bacterial skin infections.

Anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis) is a rare, life-threatening condition that can cause swelling in the face, tongue, or throat; difficulty breathing and/or swallowing; dizziness; rapid or irregular heartbeat; low blood pressure (shock); and loss of consciousness. Anaphylactic shock is an emergency that requires immediate medical care.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Aug 2009

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015