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Urticaria/Hives

What is urticaria?

Urticaria, or hives, is a condition in which red, itchy, raised areas appear on the skin. The cause is usually an allergic reaction from eating certain foods or taking certain medicines. Sometimes the cause is unknown. Hives vary in size and may come and go. Hives can affect most of the body or just a small area.

What foods commonly cause hives?

Hives are a common reaction to allergies to the following foods:

  • Nuts

  • Peanuts

  • Eggs

  • Fish

  • Shellfish

  • Milk

  • Wheat

  • Soy

What medicines commonly cause hives?

Hives are a common reaction to allergies to the following medications:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen

  • Antibiotics, especially penicillin and sulfa-based drugs 

  • Anticonvulsant or antiseizure drugs 

  • Chemotherapies 

  • ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure, such as lisinopril or enalapril

  • Drugs for treating cancer, such as monoclonal antibodies

Other types of hives

  • Dermatographism. Hives caused by scratching or pressure on the skin

  • Cold-induced. Hives caused by exposure to cold air or water.

  • Solar hives. Hives caused by exposure to sunlight or other light.

  • Exercise-induced hives. These are brought on by physical activity.

  • Chronic urticaria. Recurrent hives with no known cause.

What is angioedema?

Angioedema is an allergic reaction that causes swelling in the deeper layers of skin. It sometimes occurs with hives. It's most common on the hands, feet, and face (lips, tongue, and eyes).

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 5/16/2014
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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