Conditions & Treatments

Urticaria / Hives

Urticaria, or hives, is a condition in which red, itchy, and swollen areas appear on the skin - usually as an allergic reaction from eating certain foods or taking certain medicines.

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).

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
Department of Dermatology

  • The Medical Dermatology Program
    The Medical Dermatology program at Massachusetts General Hospital is a full-service dermatology practice that provides care for all skin, hair and nail conditions.

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