I've gotten hives from time to time when I've been overly stressed. But now I have a case that won't quit after six weeks. What's going on?
A. No one welcomes these red, itchy welts that crop up on our skin. Many things can lead to a temporary case of hives, including allergic reactions to food, medications, bug bites, pollen, latex, or animal dander. Like you, some people also develop them when they're stressed, or in response to ultraviolet light or excess skin pressure. Hives are more common in women than men, especially from our 30s to 50s.
Most cases of hives go away within several days to a couple of weeks. If they last six weeks or longer, you may have autoimmune hives. This happens when your immune system mistakenly targets healthy tissue — in this case, triggering a skin reaction. Autoimmune hives are more common in people with other autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or celiac disease. Anyone whose hives last longer than a few weeks should see a doctor.
Image: © chokja/Getty Images
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.