What is Chronic Hives?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2019
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Chronic hives is a skin condition in which someone suffers repeatedly from hives, also known as urticaria. Hives are raised welts in the skin which may be red or white, and are commonly itchy. In the case of chronic hives, either the hives persist for six weeks or more, or they come and go frequently in cycles. People who suffer from hives of the chronic variety can find the condition very frustrating.

The causes for chronic hives are not always known. Sometimes, the skin outbreaks can be traced to an undiagnosed allergy, bacterial infection, or autoimmune condition, in which case addressing the underlying cause can resolve the hives. In other instances, no cause may be identifiable, in which case treatment of the hives focuses on managing them and reducing the severity of the outbreaks to keep the patient more comfortable.

If the hives persist, the patient can develop more serious problems, like scabs, cracking, and peeling. In addition to looking unsightly and making the patient uncomfortable in social situations, these problems can also result in infection, as the breaks in the skin provide a perfect point of entry for infectious organisms such as harmful bacteria.

Hives occur when specialized cells in the skin called mast cells flood the area with histamines and other chemicals. Under normal circumstances, this response is desirable, because it is designed to protect the body from injury. However, these cells can become overstimulated, releasing excess amounts of chemicals and causing hives.


Cases of chronic hives can be managed with the use of antihistamine medications which are designed to counteract the activity of the mast cells. The patient may also be able to reduce outbreaks by making adjustments to diet, exercise, and other habits. Something simple like taking showers a few degrees cooler or using a different kind of soap can sometimes make a big difference for patients with this condition, radically reducing the irritation.

Women are more likely to develop chronic hives than men, and the condition appears more commonly in the elderly. People with a personal or family history of allergies and immune disorders can also be more prone to urticaria. When a patient presents with this condition, a doctor will usually recommend extensive testing to explore the possibility that the hives are caused by an allergy or underlying disease process, because the doctor does not want to miss a serious diagnosis by focusing on the skin problems alone.


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Post 3

I have chronic urticaria. I get hives from practically anything. I get hives when it's too cold or hot. I get hives during the time of the month. I even get hives when I'm upset.

Post 2

@anamur-- Since the hives started during your vacation, you must be allergic to something in the environment. I don't think this can be categorized as chronic hives yet. If the hives continue for several more weeks, and after you return home, then it might be chronic.

Treatment depends on the type of allergy. Antihistamines are a good place to start but you still have to look at possible hives causes.

Do you have fair skin? Could you be allergic to sunlight? Did you start eating something different there? Or if you're staying at a hotel, it might be a mite infestation causing the hives.

Post 1

I'm on vacation right now in Miami and have been getting hives ever since I got here. I have no idea what's causing it. It seems to get a little better at night and after using OTC allergy cream with steroids. But the next day, it's back again. I think I'm going to have to cut my vacation short.

Has anyone experienced something like this? What's the most effective and quick treatment for chronic hives?

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