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Itchy raised welts or weals on the surface of the skin

Also called


Affected areas

The torso, arms, legs and throat are the parts of the body most commonly affected.


  • Raised welts or bumps on the surface of the skin; they're often accompanied by an itch
  • The welts are usually red towards the edges with white centres. They may resemble a mosquito bite but are sometimes much larger, varying in size from just a few millimetres up to 25 cm or more in diameter

A few other factors to consider when it comes to hives are:

  • Hives often occur in batches with one cluster improving as another worsens in a cycle that can continue for days. Each individual welt is usually present for less than 24 hours
  • The same trigger may cause the symptoms to worsen with each subsequent attack
  • Hives that occur in the mouth, tongue and throat are called angioedema, and these can interfere with breathing. If you are suffering from angioedema seek emergency medical care immediately


Hives are usually triggered by an allergic reaction to something you have come in contact with but can also be caused by an infection or insect bite. Histamine is released by the body as a part of the immune system's response to the trigger, and high levels of Histamine can make the skin itchy, swollen and inflamed.

The triggers that may provoke hives include:

  • Food allergies, most commonly strawberries, shellfish, nuts (including peanuts), chocolate, soy, eggs and cheese
  • Reactions to prescription medicines including antibiotics and aspirin
  • Some food additives or preservatives
  • Stress can not only be a trigger, it can also make the condition worse
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Exposure to hot or cold temperatures or items
  • Exercise and perspiration
  • Pressure on the skin (e.g. from tight clothes)
  • Infection, for example with the hepatitis B virus, Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of glandular fever), Candida albicans, or certain bacteria. This is a common trigger in children
  • Contact with certain plants (especially stinging nettles) or animals
  • Hives may also be caused by an underlying health problem, such as thyroid imbalance or systemic lupus erythematosus

Occasionally, the physiological reaction occurs even though there's no discernable trigger present.

Diet and lifestyle

Most instances of hives resolve themselves over four days to a few weeks without treatment, but for more problematic cases consult with your healthcare professional to identify any allergens or underlying health issues that may be triggering the problem.

Your doctor may want to conduct a test such as skin prick or blood tests, or recommend an exclusion diet followed by food challenges to try and pinpoint any food allergies. As it's not generally possible to diagnose patients who are experiencing an allergic reaction, testing may usually only be undertaken when the outbreak is severe or long lasting. 

If a food allergy (or allergies) is identified, take steps to exclude the offending foods from your diet.

Other factors that may aggravate or trigger the condition (and consequently should be avoided) include
  • Heat
  • Spicy foods
  • Aspirin
  • Alcohol
  • Food colourings such as tartrazine, flavourings such as salicylates, and preservatives such as sulfites
  • Tight clothing or belts
Take steps to reduce stress, for example by practising meditation or yoga.

To offer relief during outbreaks try applying cold compresses or have a cold shower, this may help soothe the affected area.

Important notes

Consult your health care professional if:
  • You develop the condition following an insect bite or sting. Or if an outbreak occurs after taking medication or having a blood transfusion
  • You experience hives that are accompanied by a dry throat, cough, nausea, dizziness or difficulty in breathing
  • Symptoms persist or you have recurring bouts of hives lasting a month or more

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Can i eat black mores vitamin c 1000 with myhistamine tab together?
Anonymous 02 Jun 2015
Hi Shirley, I’m sorry to hear of this reaction. I think that you need to discuss this reaction with your pharmacist, who can then advise you on the best course of action. You can ease the itch with topical aloe vera gel or calendula lotion. Hope you are feeling better, thanks Danielle (Blackmores Naturopath)
Danielle 06 Jan 2015
I have just taken an new anti histiman tablets which resulted in me getting a jaw swelling and neck area - nowhere else. This is the only different I have taken. Food wise is the same as I always eat - nothing new. How long and what can I do to ease the itch.
Anonymous 05 Jan 2015

Hi Jean Pierre
Thank you for your post. The types of foods and beverages that may be recommended can vary considerably from person to person. This can be due to food allergies and intolerances. So as suggested in the article a food diary or elimination and allergy testing can identify which foods you can include with no concern of aggravation. For some people those foods that are bitter and cooling such as rocket, radicchio, dandelion root tea and green vegetables, including spirulina can assist. You may also like to research foods that support liver function such as beetroot (this can be juiced or eaten as a food). However it would be advised to have your food allergies and intolerances identified so the foods that can be recommended will be suitable for your individual health requirements. Kind regards Emma (Blackmores naturopath)
Emma 18 Nov 2014
Thanks for the clarity of your article on hive. I developed the symptoms after a dose of antibiotics. I would appreciate a list of things I can eat and drink rather than what I can't. Thanks. JP
Anonymous 17 Nov 2014
Hi Carollyn,

Thanks for your post and sorry to hear about your Thai meal experience!

You may like to call that restaurant and check what they may or may not have included in your meal. It appears that you have had an unusual experience and so you may like to consider the nutrients of fish oils and vitamin C to assist with this inflammatory reaction and a probiotic to support gut health immunity. I would suggest you visit your Doctor with the information provided to you from the Thai restaurant and seek medical advice if your symptoms fail to improve. Please feel free to call the Naturopaths at Blackmores if we can assist you further on 1800 803 760 from Australia or via email on

All the best to you, Gina (Blackmores naturopath)
Gina 28 May 2014
Hi Debbie,

Thanks for your post and sorry to hear about your health issues at the moment. You may like to consider some fish oils, as they may assist the hyperactivity of your immune system and to reduce inflammation of the skin. Ensuring that you replenish your gut flora with probiotics for at least one month and take vitamin C (as a natural anti-histamine), in addition to eating a healthy diet full of good quality protein (organic if possible) fresh fruit and vegetables will give your body the best opportunity to recover.
Drink lots of water and herbal teas as well as trying to avoid processed foods and sugar.

You can also try making an oat milk bath, where you add 1 cup of oats to a sock and tied at the end, before being placed in a tepid bath. The milky residue is very soothing for irritated skin. You may also apply some chickweed cream (that you can purchase at a health food store or pharmacy) as it can be soothing.
I hope this information has been helpful and I wish you a speedy recovery!

Kind regards, Gina (Blackmores Naturopath).

Gina 28 May 2014
I ate a Thai meal last night and soon after eating it developed welts at the top of my legs. I took an antihistamine. By morning my bottom lip was beginning to swell and as the day went on my hands also became swollen. When the swelling first started it was itchy but as it got bigger it was painful and tight in my wrist joints. I now have small round welts over my legs and torso. I have taken another antihistamine. How long should I wait before checking with a GP?
Anonymous 28 May 2014