Can Hives Be a Sign of Something Serious?

Woman with hives on her skin Can Hives Be a Sign of Something Serious?

Hives are a common skin concern that doesn’t always have a clear cause. However, these red itchy bumps can also be a sign of an underlying health condition. If you break out in hives often, it’s worth seeing your dermatologist and discussing potential causes. Here’s what you should know about hives and your health.

What to Know About Hives

Underlying Causes of Hives

Hives, also called urticaria, are welts that appear on the skin in response to a trigger. These welts are typically red and itchy. You might develop hives in response to environmental allergies, a new medication, or even stress. While many hive outbreaks disappear on their own or with over-the-counter treatment, chronic hives might require further medical attention.

Some of the more serious causes of hives include:

  • Food Allergies: If you’re breaking out in hives after eating, you might have a food allergy you don’t know about. It’s important to seek a diagnosis for your allergy so you can start managing it and avoid a more serious reaction. Some common food allergens include dairy, shellfish, tree nuts, eggs, and raw fruit.
  • Illness: Again, most hives are nothing to worry about. However, hives can be a sign of a more serious illness in some cases. Conditions like thyroid disease, lupus, HIV, and certain cancers may cause chronic hives as a symptom. Infections and viruses like the common cold may also lead to a hives outbreak.
  • Chronic Stress: It’s possible for people to break out in hives due to anxiety or chronic stress. Experiencing hives every time you feel overwhelmed can interfere with your life, so it’s important to get to the root cause of your mental health struggles. Therapy, medication, or ongoing stress management may help you get your stress hives under control.
  • Skin Reactions: You might develop hives if your skin is sensitive to a certain chemical or fabric. If you experience hives after using a certain type of makeup or skin care product, wearing a piece of clothing, or coming in contact with a household cleaner, it’s best to see your doctor about a possible skin allergy.

While hives symptoms can be signs of a serious health concern, it’s impossible to know without consulting your doctor. Seeking medical attention for your hives ensures that you’re addressing the root cause and seeking additional treatment.

When to Call Your Dermatologist

You should schedule an appointment with your dermatologist whenever you’re concerned about your skin. And hives are no exception. However, there are a few hives symptoms that always warrant a call to your dermatologist.

Book a dermatology appointment if your hives last for six weeks or longer. Hives that persist for this long are considered chronic hives. You should also note whether your hives appear with other symptoms. For example, if you have allergic reaction hives, you might have difficulty breathing or a swollen tongue after eating as well. Your dermatologist may refer you to an allergist or other health professional to diagnose any underlying conditions, but they may prescribe antihistamines and topical creams for treatment.


If you’re experiencing frequent hives outbreaks, the team at Pacific Dermatology Specialists can recommend next steps. We offer hives treatment among our medical dermatology services. With locations in Redondo Beach, CA and other communities in the Greater Los Angeles area, we also provide cosmetic and surgical services to support your skin needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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