Another name for hives is urticaria. It is likely to affect a good number of people, at least, once in their lifetime. Physical hivesusually begin as itchiness in a section(s) of the skin and gradually develop into red skin swellings. Other forms of hive may be internal and may or may not show in the skin.

what are hives

Hives are generally grouped into two types- acute and chronic hives.

Acute or physical hives are short term and may persist for less than 6weeks to as little as a few minutes. They usually occur due to external activities or irritations on the skin and they do not cause any serious health complications.

On the contrary, chronic hives are bound to persist for over 6weeks and even some months if not appropriately treated. They may affect internal organs of the body such as muscles, lungs and the gastrointestinal tract.


What causes hives? That is a broad question. Let’s take a look at some of these causes.


A physical urticaria or hive may develop in the skin en route an ordinary skin scratch. This is termed as dermatographism. The symptoms of hives begin to show some few minutes after a skin scratch. These physical hives normally last a couple of minutes, usually less than an hour.


Hives can be triggered by wearing tight clothing such as tight belts, shorts, tops and under wears. Pressure urticaria may appear in the form of red swellings and bumps in section(s) of the skin after wearing such tight clothing for a couple of hours.It is also evident in other parts of the body like the soles of the feet which are often in shoes or under constant pressure.


  • Cold urticaria, anotherform of hive, is caused by rapid and sudden changes in the body or skin temperature due to external or environmental factors. Getting cool, and then hot, and then cool again, then hot can cause the development of a cold urticaria. Example: swimmers who may enjoy the cold temperatures of the pool and move into the scorching sun minutes after.
  • Cholingeric urticaria is the resultant of a sudden or unusual rise in body temperature due to activities like exercising, sweating from heated atmospheres, taking hot showers and anxiety.


The effect of the sun rays are among the causes of hives. When people with very sensitive skins move into the sun, they may experience the development of hives on skin known as solar urticaria. This happens a few minutes after walking or staying in the sun.


Inflammation of blood vessels are also hives causes. This kind of hive is more painful than the ordinary itchiness and may cause or leave bruises and marks on the skin. They are likely to last more than 24hours.


When the body reacts to allergens, it produces histamines into the blood. This results in hives on face, hives on skin and other hives symptoms.

  • Food allergies – usually shellfish, eggs, peanuts and other nuts.
  • Grass and tree pollen allergies
  • Medicinal allergens
  • Pet fur and dander allergens


Aside the production of histamines ranking top among hives causes, hives are also caused by viral activity on the skin and within the body. The viral causes of hives include the viruses for common cold, hepatitis and infectious mononucleosis.


  • Medications – aspirin, ibuprofen, and antibiotics(mostly sulfa and penicillin)
  • Stings and bites from insects
  • Latex

In addition to these causes of hives, there are certain behaviors and attitudes that have been proven to worsen symptoms of hives. Some of these are:

  • Regular scratching of skin due to itchiness
  • Intake of alcoholic drinks and beverages
  • Physical exercising that produces sweat
  • Emotional stress is also guilty of worsening itching
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