Urticaria is the medical term for hives, which are red bumps or welts that appear on the surface of your skin. Angioedema is swelling that occurs in the deepest layers of the skin. Both can be symptoms of an allergic reaction.


Hives may resemble bug bites but can appear anywhere on the body, and they may fade in one area to appear in another. Hives may have slightly raised ridges or bumps that appear suddenly then disappear as quickly. Hives usually itch, and scratching can make them worse. A good indicator that you have hives is blanching. Blanching is the whitening of a red hive when it is pressed in the center.

Angioedema is a swelling of the base layers of the skin and usually occurs around the eyes, on the face, feet, hands or genitals, and along the lining of the throat and bowel. Severe reactions may result in bronchospasms and the closing of the throat due to extreme swelling.

Angioedema and Hives are typically caused by allergens but may also be triggered by environmental conditions, including sun exposure, an increase in body temperature, exposure to cold temperatures or stress.


Diagnosis is based on the physical examination of any areas of skin affected. Angioedema does not form a raised bump on top of the skin; it is a more generalized ballooning effect underneath the skin's surface causing an entire area to appear swollen. Hives are located on the top of the skin, are raised and can be felt. Your doctor may listen to your breathing and look in your throat for swelling. Both Hives and Angioedema are symptoms of an allergic reaction.


Antihistamines can diminish the swelling and itching. Steroids may be prescribed if symptoms are widespread and severe. If your reactions progress to include breathing difficulties, seek emergency help immediately as you may be experiencing Anaphylaxis and will require epinephrine to stop the reaction. Your Gateway Asthma & Allergy Relief doctor can help you determine what triggered your response and provide you with treatment options best suited to your needs.