Chronic hives (chronic urticaria) are red, itchy skin welts that last more than six weeks. Many people have these welts every day for a year or longer. People with certain autoimmune diseases are more prone to chronic hives. But often, the cause of chronic hives is unknown. Antihistamines, steroids and immunosuppressants can soothe the hives.
Chronic hives are itchy, raised, red bumps or welts that appear on your skin at least twice per week. These welts, also called wheals, are chronic when they last more than six weeks.
You may hear this condition called chronic idiopathic urticaria:
Hives (urticaria) and angioedema (swelling) can occur together. Hives are raised red bumps or splotches on your skin. Angioedema (swelling) may occur in deep layers of tissue. This swelling can affect your face, lips, throat, hands, feet and genitals.
Chronic hives are different than acute hives:
Up to 5% of people develop chronic hives. The condition affects all ages and genders but is more common in women ages 30 to 50.
For most people with chronic hives, there’s no known cause. Rarely, medication allergies or food allergies cause chronic hives. The most common allergic cause is something you consume on a regular basis. Other types of allergies may also bring on chronic hives.
Some people develop chronic hives when their body changes temperature rapidly due to heat, cold or physical activity. Pressure on your skin from tight clothing may also cause the condition.
About 1 in 5 people who develop chronic hives also have an autoimmune disease, such as:
Other conditions that may cause chronic hives include:
Hives can appear anywhere on your body and look different on each person. Hives can have different shapes and sizes. They may be as small as a pinprick or larger than a softball.
Chronic hive symptoms include:
Healthcare providers who diagnose and treat chronic hives include:
Your healthcare provider can diagnose chronic hives by examining your skin and learning more about your symptoms.
Diagnostic tests for chronic hives can pinpoint or rule out causes. You may get one or more of these tests:
Treatments for chronic hives include:
You can try these steps at home to ease itchy skin and soothe inflammation:
For half of people with chronic hives, the hives go away (often without treatment) within a year. Treatments can ease symptoms of long-lasting hives.
Call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Chronic hives (chronic urticaria) can be itchy and uncomfortable. You may become self-conscious about your appearance. Most of the time, providers can’t pinpoint the cause of chronic hives. However, treatments like antihistamines, steroids and even immunosuppressants can help. You can also take steps at home to ease itching and swelling. For many people, chronic hives eventually go away, although it may take a year or longer.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/02/2022.
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