Chronic Hives (Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria)

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.


Red, raised welts from chronic hives on a person’s skin.
Chronic hives are itchy, raised welts that appear on your skin and last for more than six weeks.

What are chronic hives (chronic idiopathic urticaria)?

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:

  • Chronic: A symptom or condition that persists even with treatment.
  • Idiopathic: The symptom or condition occurs for no known reason. It comes on suddenly.
  • Urticaria: The medical term for hives, pronounced ur-tik-CARE-ee-uh.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What are hives (urticaria) and angioedema (swelling)?

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.

What’s the difference between hives and chronic hives?

Chronic hives are different than acute hives:

  • Acute hives start to fade within 24 hours (although new hives may replace them). They are gone within six weeks. A recent viral infection often causes acute hives.
  • Chronic hives are visible at least twice per week for more than six weeks. Some chronic hives last for months or years. The cause is often unknown.

How common are chronic 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.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes chronic hives?

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.


What autoimmune diseases cause chronic hives?

About 1 in 5 people who develop chronic hives also have an autoimmune disease, such as:

What other diseases cause chronic hives?

Other conditions that may cause chronic hives include:

What are chronic hive symptoms?

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:

  • Red, raised welts or bumps on your skin that may hurt or sting.
  • Blanching (the center of the hive turns white when you press it).
  • Itchy skin (pruritus).
  • Swelling (angioedema).

Diagnosis and Tests

What type of doctor should I see for chronic hives?

Healthcare providers who diagnose and treat chronic hives include:

How are chronic hives (chronic urticaria) diagnosed?

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:

  • Allergy test to see if an allergen is causing a reaction.
  • Blood test to check for high levels of antibodies, proteins that help your body fight off bacteria, allergens and other substances.
  • Urine test to look for bacterial infections.
  • Skin biopsy procedure to confirm the diagnosis and evaluate for other causes.

Management and Treatment

What are chronic hives treatments?

Treatments for chronic hives include:

  • Allergy medications: Daily over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription allergy medications like antihistamines relieve itching and reduce or prevent allergic reactions.
  • Allergy shots: A monthly injection of a drug called omalizumab (Xolair®) blocks your body’s production of immunoglobin E (IgE). People with severe allergies can make too much IgE, leading to problems like chronic hives and asthma.
  • Steroids: Corticosteroids like prednisone (Deltasone®, Rayos®) can ease symptoms that don’t respond to allergy medicines.
  • Hydroxychloroquine: A study found that 8 in 10 people with autoimmune disease-induced chronic hives got symptom relief after taking hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®), an antimalarial drug, for three or more months.
  • Cyclosporine: This immunosuppressant is highly effective at clearing up severe chronic hives. But it can cause serious side effects when taken for too long.

What are at-home treatments for chronic hives?

You can try these steps at home to ease itchy skin and soothe inflammation:

  • Apply an OTC anti-itch cream.
  • Place cool compresses on the hives several times a day (unless cool temperatures make hives worse).
  • Take a cool bath or shower.
  • Use hypoallergenic lotions and creams to moisturize dry skin.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes made with soft fabric that won’t irritate your skin.

Outlook / Prognosis

Can chronic hives last for years?

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.

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

Call your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Hives or swelling that lasts more than a week.
  • Infected-looking bumps (red, swollen or pus-filled).
  • Recurring hives that come back every few months.
  • Severely itchy skin.

What should I ask my provider?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What is causing the chronic hives?
  • When should the chronic hives go away?
  • Should I get an allergy test?
  • What’s the best treatment for chronic hives?
  • What’s the best treatment to reduce itching?
  • Should I look out for signs of complications?

Additional Common Questions

Can stress or anxiety cause chronic hives?

Stress and anxiety can worsen skin diseases. Anti-anxiety medicines may help. You may also benefit from stress-relieving therapies like mindfulness or meditation.

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/02/2022.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 216.444.5725