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Chronic Hives: Beyond the Itch – Understanding Severe Complications and Prevention

Hives or urticaria is a type of skin reaction that results in itchy welts. Though hives are not always chronic or cause serious harm to the body, there are some rare and extremely severe complications associated with them. As we read further in this article, we will know about some of the most severe complications of hives and also know about a few ways to prevent them.

What Are Hives?

Hives, known as urticaria in medical terminology, is a skin reaction where raised red bumps or welts are seen on the skin and these are also quite itchy. These hives are a type of swelling occurring on the skin surface when our body has any sort of allergic reaction. These allergic reactions occur when the body’s immune system comes in contact with any allergen. Though hives usually cause itching, you might also feel a burning or stinging sensation. These hives can be as small as a fingertip or can be as big as a plate. Sometimes, the welts occurring with hives join together and form larger areas known as plaques.

Generally, hives tend to fade within 24 hours, however, chronic hives can last for more than six weeks and also can return over months or years.

Around 1.8% of the world’s population is affected by chronic hives at some point in their lives (1). Chronic hives can be painful, itchy, and uncomfortable, and can also interfere with sleep and normal activities. Anti-itch medications or antihistamines offer relief from hives. However, some severe complications can also occur from hives. Let us take a read further and know about these rare yet serious risks of hives.

Severe Complications of Hives: Uncovering the Rare but Serious Risks

Hives can be more than just your itchy or irritating skin. Chronic hives can have an extremely negative impact on the quality of life for many people suffering from the condition. Dealing with any sort of long-term health condition or disease could be challenging, and particularly, itchy skin due to hives can be extremely hard to live with. (2)

Some of the severe complications of hives are listed below.


While hives do not put you at a higher risk of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, they are one of the first signs that anaphylaxis might be taking place. (3, 4, 5)

Anaphylaxis can close off the airways and can result in death. In such a condition there is a swelling of the airways, the throat, and the lungs.

Complications Related To Mental And Emotional Health


Apart from the physical discomfort and itchiness that people suffering from hives can experience, they can also interrupt sleep and make them more grumpy, and irritable. This change in mood can worsen their mental and emotional health. It can hinder their performances at school, college, or office. The sufferers may also experience symptoms of withdrawal from social interaction.

A study has shown that every seven persons with hives deal with psychological conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety. A study has shown that this number could be much higher, with 48% of the sufferers of chronic hives reporting feelings of depression and dealing with anxiety. (2)


Swelling in the eyes, hands, feet, lips, or genitals can be one of the signs that you are experiencing angioedema. This is a complication occurring from chronic hives and it occurs when fluid buildup in the skin results in deep swelling. Usually, antihistamines and oral corticosteroids are used to treat angioedema or reduce swelling. (3)

Other Complications

Patients suffering from hives can also experience other complications like abdominal pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and feeling faint. (3)

NOTE: These are serious symptoms and you need to call 911 as soon as you can.

You will be treated with epinephrine, oxygen, cortisone, antihistamines, and a beta-agonist, that would help you breathe normally and reduce the allergic response of your body. (6)

How To Prevent Hives?

To prevent hives and the associated complications from them, we need to follow the below-mentioned preventive methods.

To Prevent Acute Hives  

  • Reduce exposure to airborne allergens.
  • Limit or restrict certain food products that can cause allergic reactions.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Switch to soaps and detergents without dyes or scents.
  • Avoid using deodorants.
  • Wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothing.
  • Relax and take a break when you feel overworked or stressed out.

To Prevent Chronic Hives

It might not be exactly possible to prevent chronic hives. You should show your doctor so that the exact cause and triggers can be found and go for the appropriate treatments.

When To See Your Doctor

Hives can fade away without treatments. However, you should visit your doctor if you have the following symptoms.

  • Hives or swelling lasting for more than a week.
  • Red, swollen, or pus-filled hives or bumps that look infectious.
  • Recurring hives
  • Severe itching that might be interrupting your sleep.
  • Swollen face or lips.
  • Signs of anaphylaxis, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or vomiting.

Final Words

Though hives are not always chronic or dangerous, there are possibilities of some severe complications from hives, which need to be treated promptly. Usually, antihistamines or anti-itch drugs are used to treat hives, however, you should consult with your doctor and take the prescribed treatments for chronic hives or to prevent yourself from unwanted complications.


Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 28, 2023

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