Urticaria –also known as hives, weals, welts or nettle rash – is a raised, itchy rash that appears on the skin. It may appear on one part of the body or be spread across large areas. The rash is usually very itchy and ranges in size from a few millimetres to the size of a hand. Although the affected area may change in appearance within 24 hours, the rash usually settles within a few days.

Doctors may refer to urticaria as either:

  • acute urticaria– if the rash clears completely within six weeks.
  • chronic urticaria –the rash persists or comes and goes for more than six weeks, often over many years.


Urticaria can usually be diagnosed by examining the distinctive red rash.

They’ll also ask you some questions to find out what triggered your symptoms, including:

  • when and where the rash began
  • what you had to eat just before it began and details of your usual diet
  • if you started taking any new medication just before your symptoms began
  • if you live or work in an environment where you come into contact with possible triggers – such as pets, chemicals or latex gloves
  • if you were stung or bitten by an insect just before your symptoms started
  • your current state of health and if you’ve had any recent infections
  • if you’ve recently travelled to a foreign country and if so, where
  • if there’s a history of urticaria in your family



Most cases of urticaria do not require treatment as the disease is rather mild and often gets better in a few days.

If your symptoms are troublesome or persistent, antihistamines are available over the counter from pharmacies.

You may be prescribed a short course of high-dose corticosteroid tablets, such as prednisolone, if your symptoms are severe.

Leukotriene receptor antagonists:

  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists are a type of medication that can help to reduce redness and swelling of the skin.
  • useful long-term alternative to using corticosteroid tablets


In around two-thirds of cases, a powerful medication called ciclosporin has proved effective in treating urticaria.Ciclosporin works in a similar way to corticosteroids. It suppresses the harmful effects of the immune system and is available in capsule form or as a liquid.


Omalizumab is given by injection and is thought to reduce a type of antibody that can play a part in urticaria.

Related Articles


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is [...]


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Juvenile polyposis syndrome (JPS) is a rare genetic disorder characterized by [...]


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA) is a relatively common type of brain [...]