What are hives?

Published on May 23, 2022

Child with hives on his arm.

Hives (otherwise known as Urticaria) are characterised by circular red, raised and itchy wheals on the surface of the skin. They may look like mosquito bites, with a red outer rim and a white centre. They can cause a rash, which may occur anywhere on the body, but is most commonly found on the torso, throat, arms and legs. Wheals may vary in size from relatively small to the size of a dinner plate. Individual hives usually disappear within minutes, however, they may come and go for days, weeks or sometimes longer.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) estimates that up to 20% of Australians will develop hives at some time during their lifetime.

What causes an outbreak of hives?

Hives can be due to several different causes. Some factors known to cause hives are listed below. In approximately 80% of cases, however, the cause of hives is never identified.

Allergic reactions         

Allergens are the substances responsible for an allergic reaction. They can include everything from animal dander, pollen and insect venom (such as bee and wasp stings) to foods and medicines.

The more often an individual is exposed to common allergens, the more likely they will develop an allergy to them.

Physical and emotional causes

Hives may also be triggered by exercise, sweating, sunshine, heat, cold temperatures and emotional stress.


Hives can appear in response to antibodies produced by the immune system, for example, in the case of an infection such as the common cold.

What is the treatment for hives?

Mild outbreaks of hives may not need treatment and may clear up within a few days on their own. To minimise the symptoms of hives, you can:

  • If the cause of the hives has been identified, avoid the causative factors as much as possible.
  • Mild to moderate histamine-induced symptoms may require treatment with an antihistamine medication, such as Telfast® 180mg.

See your doctor if the rash continues to appear for several days. Seek emergency medical attention if you have an outbreak of hives and feel light-headed, have difficulty breathing or feel that your throat is swelling.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

Learn about which Telfast product may be appropriate for you.


MAT-AU-2102141. Nov 2021.

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