Hives (Child)

Hives are pink or red bumps on the skin. These bumps are also known as wheals. The bumps can itch, burn, or sting. Hives can occur anywhere on the body. They vary in size and shape and can form in clusters. Individual hives can appear and go away quickly. New hives may develop as old ones fade. Hives are common and usually harmless. They are not contagious. Occasionally, hives are a sign of a serious allergy.

Hives are often caused by an allergic reaction. They may occur from:

  • Certain foods, such as shellfish, nuts, tomatoes, or berries

  • Contact with something in the environment, such as pollens, animals, or mold

  • Certain medicines

  • Sun or cold air

  • Viral infections, such as a cold, the flu, or strep throat

If the hives continue to come and go over many weeks without any other symptoms (chronic hives), the cause can be very hard to figure out.

Home care

Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicines to relieve swelling and itching. Follow all instructions when using these medicines.

General care:

  • Try to find the cause of the hives and eliminate it. Discuss possible causes with your child’s healthcare provider.

    Your child's healthcare provider may ask you to keep track of the foods your child eats and his or her lifestyle to help find the cause of the hives.

  • Try to prevent your child from scratching the hives. Scratching will delay healing. To reduce itching, apply cool, wet compresses to the skin or have your child take a cool 10-minute shower. Cutting nails short and using soft anti-scratch mittens may help a young child not scratch.

  • Dress your child in soft, loose cotton clothing.

  • Don’t bathe your child in hot water. This can make the itching worse.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised.

Special note to parents

If your child had a severe reaction or the hives come back and you don’t know the cause, talk with your child’s healthcare provider about allergy testing. Allergy testing, a urine test, or a blood test may help figure out what your child is allergic to.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher, or as directed by your child's healthcare provider

  • Redness, swelling, or pain

  • Foul-smelling fluid coming from the rash

  • Hives last more than 1 week

Call 911

Call 911 right away if your child has:

  • Swelling of the face, throat, and tongue

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting

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