Hives that come back daily for 6 weeks or more are called chronic hives, or chronic urticaria. The condition often has no known cause, but allergies, autoimmune conditions, physical stimuli, and infections can play a role.
Hives are itchy, raised welts on the skin. They are often caused by an allergic reaction but might also have an unknown cause.
Hives that recur (go away and come back) frequently are known as chronic hives. Chronic hives of unknown cause can last for months or years. They can affect 1.4% of people, twice as often in women as in men.
Chronic hives can affect your quality of life, as severe itchiness can lead to discomfort and trouble sleeping. Yet treatment can help you manage them.
Let’s look at the symptoms, possible causes, and treatment for hives that recur daily.
You can identify hives by their:
- raised patches or bumps on the skin
- itchiness on the patches or bumps
- stinging or burning sensation
- swollen skin appearance
Hives come in all different shapes and sizes, from just a small speck to several inches in diameter. A group of hives that appear in the same area is known as a plaque.
Call emergency medical services or go to the nearest emergency room if you or someone you’re with experience:
- sudden swelling of the lips, mouth, throat, or tongue
- fast breathing, choking, or wheezing
- trouble swallowing
- blue, gray, or pale color in lighter skin or on palms or soles of the feet in darker skin
- confusion, drowsiness, or dizziness
- inability to be woken up
Chronic hives look the same as other hives. Hives on light skin can appear pink or red. On dark skin, the color of the hives might be similar to the rest of your skin or slightly darker. Hives can also blanche on lighter skin, which is when a red hive becomes white if you press on it.
On all skin colors, hives are bumps or raised patches.
Chronic hives have many possible causes. Differences in symptoms, such as how quickly the hives appear, can help identify the cause.
Chronic idiopathic urticaria
Chronic idiopathic urticaria is when you get daily hives but doctors can’t determine why. Symptoms include:
- hives that recur daily or nearly every day
- hives that last for 6 weeks or longer
- when each hive lasts 24 hours or fewer
- hives that do not bruise or scar your skin
Hives can be triggered by exposure to a specific allergen.
Depending on the type of allergy, hives might come on quickly or over a few hours. Some common food allergens and the timing of related hives include:
- peanuts, shellfish, eggs, and nuts (hives often appear within 1 hour)
- bananas and chestnuts if you have a latex allergy (hives often appear within 12–24 hours)
- food additives like colors and preservatives (hives often appear within 12–24 hours)
Other types of allergies that might cause recurring hives include:
- insect bites or stings
- pet dander
- certain plants
Several autoimmune conditions can cause chronic hives. Although researchers don’t know exactly why this happens, chronic inflammation might
Among the autoimmune conditions that might cause hives are:
- thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- rheumatoid arthritis
Infection or medication
If you have an infection or are taking medication, these might also lead to hives that recur daily. Examples include:
- Bacterial or viral infections:
When a doctor is trying to find the cause of your recurring hives, they might try to rule out infection or medication as a cause. Chronic hives last longer than 6 weeks, but an acute infection like the common cold might last less time than that.
A doctor might then look for another cause of your hives.
Your environment or certain activities can cause you to break out in hives. If these stimuli are a regular part of your life, it might lead to chronic hives.
Examples of stimuli that lead people to have hives almost immediately or within a few minutes include:
- ultraviolet light (outdoor sun exposure or tanning beds)
- adrenaline (exercise or stress)
- certain animals like jellyfish
Skin pressure from clothes or accessories can lead to hives right away or up to 4–24 hours later.
If you don’t know the reason for your chronic hives, consider seeing a doctor. The hives might have a treatable cause like an allergy or physical stimulus. Treatment can relieve symptoms even if the cause is unknown.
Also consider seeing a doctor if hives:
- do not get better after 2 days
- seem to be spreading
- accompany high temperature
- accompany a feeling of unwellness
- accompany swelling under the skin
A doctor, usually a specialist such as an allergist, diagnoses chronic hives by:
- taking a medical history
- asking about your symptoms
- performing a physical exam
- conducting an allergy patch test
If your chronic hives are from a specific trigger, avoiding that trigger might make them go away.
Self-care options include:
- applying cool compresses
- using anti-itch creams or ointments
- bathing in colloidal oatmeal
- wearing loose-fitting clothes
- avoiding scratching
- using fragrance-free, gentle skin cleansers
Chronic hives can go away without treatment. About half of people with chronic hives no longer experience them within a year.
Here are some answers to common questions about chronic hives.
Why do I keep getting hives every day?
Chronic hives can have a variety of causes, including allergies, autoimmune conditions, infections, or physical stimuli. Many cases of chronic hives have no known cause.
What do autoimmune hives look like?
Autoimmune hives appear as raised, itchy patches of skin or bumps. They might appear pink or red on light skin and on dark skin as a bit darker than the rest of your skin. Hives can be of any size or shape.
When should I be worried about recurring hives?
You should consider seeing a doctor whenever you have hives that keep coming back. A doctor might be able to help you find a cause. Even if the cause is unknown, treatments such as antihistamines and self-care can help improve your symptoms.
Treatment for chronic hives with antihistamines, corticosteroids, light therapy, and home care can help improve symptoms.