Hives aren’t contagious, meaning you won’t develop them on your skin by touching hives on another person. However, the trigger causing this skin reaction can be contagious.
Hives — also referred to as urticaria — are welts on the skin and are a type of itchy rash. They may be red or skin-colored, though hives on darker skin may be harder to see.
Hives can appear on any body part and are often triggered by an allergic reaction. If you press a hive, the center of the bump will turn pale.
Other causes of hives that are contagious are:
Although allergies can trigger hives, other things can also cause them. Understanding the cause can help to address ways to prevent this reaction and avoid the spread of hives.
Contact with an allergen is the most common cause of hives. Allergic hives aren’t contagious.
Common allergens that can trigger hives are:
- insect bites
- plants like poison ivy or oak
Some viral and bacterial can cause hives. Examples of these conditions include:
- colds or other viruses like COVID-19
- strep throat
These types of hives themselves aren’t contagious, but if the condition that causes them spreads to you, you could also develop hives.
These infections can spread through:
- airborne germs from sneezing and coughing
- poor hygiene
- sharing eating utensils
- direct contact with the saliva of an ill person
- contact with stool
You’re at more risk of developing an infection:
- are younger than 2 years old or older than 65 years old
- are pregnant
- have an undeveloped or suppressed immune system
- have a medical condition that affects your immune system
- have other underlying health issues that can weaken the body, such as obesity or chronic lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma
- smoke or use substances
- belong to a historically marginalized group and experience health or social inequities
Overexposure to the sun, cold, or water can cause physical hives. Body heat from physical activity can also cause a reaction. These can also be triggered by stress.
In addition, you may get hives simply from pressure on the skin, such as from clothes that are too tight.
If you have chronic hives — or chronic urticaria — welts appear for up to six weeks at a time. In more severe cases, chronic hives can last for years.
About 1.4% of all people experience chronic hives, more commonly males than females. There is often an underlying condition that is triggering chronic hives, but sometimes there is no obvious cause.
Are sex and gender the same thing?
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Hives typically go away within a few days unless you’ve developed a chronic case of urticaria. Learn 15 ways to get rid of hives.
You should seek immediate medical attention if, in addition to hives, you experience:
Through lifestyle changes and precautions, you can help to prevent hive reactions. But this depends on what’s causing the hives.
If you have a known allergy, you can do the following to prevent hives:
- Avoid eating foods or other substances you are allergic to.
- Carry an EpiPen in case of allergic emergencies.
- Take any allergy medicines as prescribed, but consult your doctor to find alternatives if the medicines themselves contain allergens.
- Avoid using harsh soaps that could cause irritation.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing.
- Wear protective clothing in cold weather or sun exposure.
- Do not swim alone in cold water.
Contagious bacteria can also cause conditions that trigger hives. Here are a few tips you
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Get vaccinated for preventable infections.
- Limit contact with people who are sick or exhibit hives.
Hives are a kind of itchy rash characterized by welts on the skin. It is usually caused by allergies but can have other causes.
Hives themselves are not contagious, but their cause could be. For example, if you have hives caused by a virus, a person can contract the virus and also develop hives.
The treatment and prevention strategies for hives depend on the underlying cause.