Hives are a common symptom of COVID-19, sometimes occurring early in the infection. They can appear anywhere on the body, including the joints.

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Research shows that COVID-19 can cause a hive-like rash in some people. COVID-19-related hives can appear anywhere on your body, including your joints, but they rarely affect your joints alone.

Hives (urticaria) are itchy, raised welts that can be red, pink, or flesh-toned. They can range in size from pinpoint dots to large proportions of skin.

Hives have many possible causes. They happen because your immune system releases histamine when it senses a threat, like a virus or an allergen.

If you’re experiencing hives on your joints, it could be due to COVID-19, an allergic reaction, or another condition.

This article will discuss the common causes of hives and where on the body they may occur. You’ll also learn about other types of rashes that may happen when you have COVID-19.

According to a 2023 review of research, hives are one of the most common skin disorders related to COVID-19. They found that hives typically appear alongside other COVID-19 symptoms, like cough and fever.

But, research from early in the pandemic found that hives often appeared early in the course of the illness, sometimes as the first symptom.

Medications used to treat COVID-19 can also trigger hives during your illness.

Hives can appear anywhere on the body. Common locations include the:

  • toes
  • arms
  • legs
  • back
  • torso

COVID hives typically last about 7 days but may come and go during that time.

Hives that cluster specifically on your joints are not a known side effect of COVID-19. However, COVID-19 hives can appear anywhere on the body, including on the joints.

There is one type of rash associated with COVID-19 that primarily affects your joints; it’s known as COVID-19 toe. This chilblain-like rash may cover an entire toe, including its joints. In some instances, COVID toe also occurs on the fingers and finger joints. You may notice redness, swelling, and blisters.

Hives that cluster on joints may be caused by something else, like an irritant you come into contact with. Redness around the joints can also be an indication of another condition, like psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Research into the effects of COVID-19 on organs like the skin is ongoing. According to a 2022 review of studies, COVID-19 may cause several different types of rash, including:

  • Varicella-like (vesicular): an itchy rash of fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) that resembles chickenpox
  • Papulo-vesiculsar: an itchy rash containing papules (small solid bumps) and blisters (vesicles)
  • Maculopapular: patches of discolored or reddish skin that may be flat or raised
  • Urticarial morphologies: hives that change in size and shape or develop into a lacy pattern

COVID-19 complications

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a rare, serious complication of COVID-19 that can occur in children and teens. MIS-C causes a red, spotted, blotchy rash on various parts of the body. This rash erupts anywhere from 2–6 weeks after the initial infection onset. Other symptoms include fever, bloodshot eyes, and stomach pain.

Purpura is a lumpy rash that is dark brown, purple, or black in color. It’s caused by a blood clot or bleeding under the skin. Unlike hives, purpura rashes don’t blanche (turn white) when you push down on them. COVID-19-induced immune thrombocytopenic purpura is a potential complication of COVID-19 infection.

If you have a purpura rash coupled with a high fever, you mayhave blood poisoning (septicemia). Septicemia is a serious infection that requires immediate medical attention.

Typical symptoms of COVID-19

COVID-19 symptoms vary from person to person. COVID variants also present with ever-changing symptoms. No matter what symptoms you experience, testing is the only way to know if you have COVID.

Common symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • headache
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • loss of taste or smell
  • sinus or nasal congestion
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
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Hives have a wide range of causes and triggers. Common causes of hives include:

  • foods such as eggs, peanuts, and shellfish
  • ingredients in medications, such as penicillin and sulfa
  • latex
  • bug bites
  • pollen
  • pet dander
  • dust mites
  • stress and anxiety
  • bacterial and viral infections
  • sunlight
  • exposure to heat or cold
  • pressure on skin

Hives usually respond well to at-home treatments. Things to try include:

  • identifying and avoiding your personal triggers
  • using over-the-counter (OTC) oral or topical antihistamines
  • using OTC hydrocortisone cream
  • taking colloidal oatmeal baths or using ointments
  • applying topical antiitch soothers like calamine lotion and witch hazel
  • using cool compresses

COVID-19 can quickly turn into a medical emergency. If you’re in a high risk group, talk with a healthcare professional about your COVID symptoms, even if they’re mild.

Symptoms that signal the need for immediate medical attention include:

  • trouble breathing
  • chest pain or pressure
  • changes in skin tone, such as a gray or blue tint, around the lips or nail beds
  • lethargy or an inability to remain awake
  • feelings of confusion
  • persistent or high fever in babies or children

Hives are a lesser-known potential symptom of COVID-19.

In some instances, hives that result from COVID infection can affect joints and the surrounding areas, such as the toes, fingers, hips, arms, and legs.

Hives that cluster solely on joints and not on the surrounding areas of skin are not associated with COVID-19 infection.