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Hives: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Hives are raised, red, itchy patches of skin. They are also called wheals or welts. They usually have red borders and pale centres. Hives range in size from ½ centimetre to 7 centimetres or more across. They may seem to move from place to place on the skin. Several hives may form a large area of raised, red skin.

You can get hives after an insect sting, after taking medicine or eating certain foods, or because of infection or stress. Other causes include plants, things you breathe in, makeup, heat, cold, sunlight, and latex.

You cannot spread hives to other people. Hives may last a few minutes or a few days, but a single spot may last less than 36 hours.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Avoid whatever you think may have caused your hives, such as a certain food or medicine. However, you may not know the cause.
  • Put a cool, wet towel on the area to relieve itching.
  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Reactine), or loratadine (Claritin), to help stop the hives and calm the itching. Read and follow directions on the label. These medicines can make you feel sleepy. Do not drive while using them.
  • Stay away from strong soaps, detergents, and chemicals. These can make itching worse.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very light-headed or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • You get hives after you start a new medicine.
  • Hives have not gone away after 24 hours.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.