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Chronic Hives: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Chronic hives are long-lasting raised, red, and itchy patches of skin called wheals or welts. This condition is also called chronic urticaria. Hives usually have red borders and pale centres. They 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 join to form a large area of raised, red skin.

When hives and swelling last more than 6 weeks even with treatment, they are called chronic. A single spot of hives may last less than 36 hours, but the problem may come and go for weeks or months. In most people, the problem often lasts less than 1 year and almost always goes away within 5 years.

Hives may occur with swelling under the skin (called angioedema). But you may have swelling without hives. Swelling may hurt a bit, but it does not usually itch like hives. It can be dangerous if severe swelling affects your throat, but this is very rare.

You cannot spread hives to other people.

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. But you may not know the cause.
  • Put a cool, wet towel on the area to relieve itching.
  • Your doctor may suggest an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as cetirizine (Reactine), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or loratadine (Claritin), to help control the hives and swelling. Read and follow all instructions on the label. These medicines can make you feel sleepy. Do not drive while using them.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a shot of epinephrine to carry with you in case you have a severe reaction. Learn how to give yourself the shot, and keep it with you at all times. Make sure it has not expired.
  • If your doctor prescribes another medicine, take it exactly as directed.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think you are having a severe allergic reaction.

After giving an epinephrine shot call 911, even if you feel better.

Call 911 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.
  • You have been given an epinephrine shot, even if you feel better.

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

  • Your hives get worse.

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?

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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.