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, and swollen raised areas appear on the skin--usually as an allergic reaction from eating certain foods or taking certain medicines; however, sometimes the cause may be unknown. Hives can vary in size from one-half inch to several inches in size. Hives can appear all over the body or be limited to one part of the body.

What foods commonly cause hives?

  • Nuts

  • Peanuts

  • Eggs

  • Shellfish

  • Milk

What medicines commonly cause hives?

  • Antibiotics, especially penicillin and sulfa-based drugs 

  • Anticonvulsant drugs or antiseizure drugs 

  • Chemotherapies 

Other causes of hives

  • Dermatographism. Hives caused by scratching the skin, continual stroking of the skin, or wearing tight-fitting clothes that rub the skin.

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

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

  • Exercise-induced urticaria. Allergic symptoms brought on by physical activity.

  • Chronic urticaria. Recurrent hives with no known cause.

What is angioedema?

Angioedema is an allergic reaction that causes swelling deeper in the layers of the skin. It most commonly occurs 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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