Hives all over body

Hives all over the body is a skin condition marked by the sudden outbreak of pale reddish, elevated and swollen plaques, bumps, and wheals. They may occur as part of an allergic reaction to different elements or due to unknown causes. It is medically referred to as urticaria.


Some of common signs and symptoms of hives all over body are as follows:

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  • Hives can occur on any part of the body such as the lips, throat, face, tongue, and/or ears.
  • Affected individuals may suffer from stinging or burning sensations as well as itchiness.
  • The hives may differ in size; they may be as small as a kidney bean, or appear together in clusters and affect an area as large as a dinner plate. The latter are known as plaques.
  • Hives can persist for some hours or even a day or two before clearing out on their own.
  • One type of hives is called angioedema. It is however characterized by development of swelling under the skin as opposed to the skin surface. Affected people may experience excessive swelling of the lips and eyes; the hands, genitals, and feet may also exhibit swelling on occasions. Such swelling typically dissipates within 24 hours.
  • In rare cases, angioedema can affect the throat, lungs, or tongue, obstruct the airways, and pose breathing problems. Such a situation can be very deadly.

Immediate medical attention is needed in case a patient suffers from breathing problems, wheezing, chest tightness, dizziness, and swollen lips, tongue or face.

Causes of hives all over body

  • Hives all over body occur due to leakage of blood plasma from the skin’s tiny blood vessels as part of its response to histamine, a chemical which gets secreted by specific cells present along such blood vessels.
  • The release of histamine can be triggered due to varied causes including the occurrence of chemicals in some food items, allergic reactions, exposure to UV light, insect bites and stings, or the intake of certain medications.
  • Doctors are also often unable to diagnose the exact cause of hives formation all over body.


Hives appear in many different types. They include:

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  • Acute urticaria: In this, hives all over body are usually caused due to intake of certain medications or foods, or due to infections, certain underlying internal illnesses, or insect stings. It lasts for no more than 6 weeks.
    • Aspirin and other NSAIDs like ACE inhibitors and other hypertension drugs, ibuprofen, and codeine like painkillers are certain medications that can trigger acute hives all over body.
    • Chocolate, nuts, fish, eggs, tomatoes, milk, and fresh berries are the types of foods that commonly cause acute urticaria. Some kinds of food preservatives and additives can also trigger an episode of hives all over body. Fresh foods come with greater risk than cooked foods.
    • Physical urticaria: In this, hives all of over body are caused due to direct physical reactions of the skin which may occur due to contact with elements like perspiration, sunlight, cold, pressure, heat, pressure, and vigorous workouts, often within 1 hour after such exposure. The hives generally form on that area of skin which experienced the direct physical stimuli rather than other skin areas.
    • Chronic urticaria: The hives last for over 6 weeks and are often more problematic to diagnose as compared to acute urticaria. In most cases, doctors are typically unable to identify the underlying cause. Some people may develop chronic hives all over body due to an underling infection, thyroid disorder, cancer, or hepatitis.
      • Additional symptoms include vomiting, breathlessness, diarrhea, and soreness of the muscles. The condition can also affect the muscles, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and other internal organs.
      • Dermatographism: It is a prevalent type of physical urticaria, wherein hives all over body develop after the skin is scratched or stroked vigorously. The condition can also develop along with other types of hives/urticaria.


There are no specific tests to verify the presence and causes of hives all over body. Doctors will perform a complete physical test, including a skin test for allergies, as well as check the medical history of the patient before arriving at a conclusion.

Doctors may also opt for blood tests to check for the presence of any underlying causative ailments.

Treatment of hives all over body

Treatment of hives all over body is dependent on identifying the underlying factors that trigger the condition and then removing it. This can however be quite difficult at times.

  • The adverse symptoms accompanying hives all over body can be alleviated with antihistamines.
  • Chronic urticaria is treated with antihistamines as well as other drugs. Oral corticosteroids may be prescribed if antihistamines are not so effective in easing the symptoms.
  • Cortisone drugs or epinephrine injections may be recommended for severe cases of hives all over body.
  • Sleeping and working in a cool room; use of wet clothes or cool compresses on affected skin area; and wearing loose clothes made of light and porous fabrics can also help manage the condition.
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