Hives (urticaria)

​General information

Hives are a common skin reaction with an infection as a possible underlying cause. However, the cause of hives often remains unknown. Acute hives (lasting max. 2 months) may be triggered by a common virus or allergy, alcohol, food or physical exertion.

Hives, also known as urticaria or nettle rash, is a raised rash on the skin, which as the name indicates, looks like a rash caused by nettles. The rash travels from one location on the skin to the next. The rash comes and goes on its own in a couple of hours or a day at the most.

Initially the rash is very itchy, but the itching eases off once the rash starts to get better. Usually there are no general symptoms (such as fever) but a severe bout of hives may include stomach symptoms.

In addition to the skin rash, your lips, tongue, eyelids or limbs may swell. Angio-oedema is a painful, firm, localised swelling that develops very quickly.

Hives do not transmit from person to person.


You can take antihistamine by mouth for a couple of weeks for hives. You can continue taking antihistamines as long as symptoms persist. Skin creams are usually not effective. Antihistamines are not effective against angio-oedema.

When should you seek medical advice?

If your symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling in the face, tongue or throat, you must seek medical treatment immediately. You should also seek help if your rash has spread widely and very suddenly. In the case of emergency, always call 112.

This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto

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Updated  8.6.2020