Diagnosis and treatment

The best treatment for hives and angioedema is for your doctor to identify the trigger and then for you to avoid it. Identifying triggers, however, is not an easy task. Your doctor will need to ask you many questions and may perform some tests.

Because there are no specific tests for hives or angioedema, the kinds of tests ordered will depend upon your medical history and a thorough examination by one or more specialists. Skin tests may be performed to determine the substance to which you are allergic. Blood tests are frequently done to rule out a systemic illness as the cause of your body's release of histamine.

If your condition is persistent, your doctor will probably prescribe an antihistamine to provide you with relief from the symptoms. These medications work best when taken on a regular schedule to prevent the swelling. For severe outbreaks, an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) or a cortisone-based medication may be needed. Your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids if antihistamines do not work well. In many cases, antihistamine medications need to be advanced, as tolerated, to higher doses than when antihistamines are used for other conditions (e.g., allergic rhinitis or hay fever). A number of medications can be prescribed for patients with “antihistamine resistant” urticaria that can achieve control of this condition.

While you're waiting for the hives and swelling to disappear, doing the following might help to relieve the symptoms:

  • Avoid hot water; use lukewarm water instead.
  • Use gentle, mild soap.
  • Apply cool compresses or wet cloths to the afflicted areas.
  • Try to work and sleep in a cool room.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothes.

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