Font Size

Hives and Angioedema (cont.)

What Are Symptoms and Signs of Hives and Angioedema?

Hives is a rash of smooth, raised, pink or reddish bumps of different sizes, called wheals. Hives appear suddenly. The wheals look somewhat like mosquito bites. They may cover all or part of the body and are usually very itchy.

  • Hives usually break out first on the covered areas of the skin such as the trunk and upper parts of the arms and legs.
  • Wheals appear in batches. Each wheal may last from a few minutes to six hours. As wheals disappear, new ones form. A case of hives usually lasts at most a few days.
  • Hives are usually patchy at first, but the patches may run together until the hives cover most of the body.
  • The patches can be small or large. They are usually irregular in shape. Often, the patches have clearing of the redness in the center with a red halo or flare at the edges.
  • The itching is often very intense.
  • Hives are characterized by blanching, which means that the redness goes away and the area turns pale when pressure is applied.
  • Dermographism may be present. Dermographism refers to the appearance of reddened areas like hives that appear after light scratching of the skin.

Angioedema is related to hives but has a different appearance. Angioedema describes marked swelling, usually around the eyes and mouth. It may also involve the throat, tongue, hands, feet, and/or genitals.

  • The skin may appear normal, without hives or other rash.
  • The eyes may appear swollen shut.
  • The swellings usually do not itch but may be painful or burning.
  • The swellings may not be symmetrical (the same on both sides of the body).
  • Like hives, the swelling of angioedema can go away on its own.

Other, more severe allergic reactions may occur with hives or angioedema. A reaction may start with hives or angioedema and then progress rapidly to more serious symptoms. The most serious allergic reactions, which can be life-threatening emergencies, are called anaphylactic reactions. The symptoms and signs of an anaphylactic reaction include the following:

  • Swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
  • Wheezing, a raspy sound when you breathe
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Tightness in the throat or chest
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory stridor, to and fro breathing that is strained in the throat
  • The dizziness, faintness, and loss of consciousness are caused by dangerously low blood pressure, also called shock.
Last Reviewed 9/11/2017

Must Read Articles Related to Hives and Angioedema

Eczema Eczema is a term frequently used to describe any ...learn more >>
HIV Transmission and the History of HIV/AIDS
HIV Transmission and the History of HIV AIDS In the late '70s, the syndrome caused by the HIV...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Hives and Angioedema:

Hives - Causes

What caused your hives?

Hives - Describe Your Experience

Please describe your experience with hives.

Hives - Home Remedies

Do you know of effective home remedies for hives? Please describe them.

Hives - Treatment

What treatment did you receive for hives and angioedema?

Hives - Prevention

What do you do to prevent hives?

Hives - Diagnosis

How were your hives diagnosed?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Angioedema »

Angioedema is a subcutaneous extension of urticaria, resulting in deep swelling within subcutaneous sites.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary