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First Aid & Emergencies

Hives and Angioedema Treatment

Call 911 if the person has:

  • Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) including: Difficulty breathing or wheezingTightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closingHoarseness or trouble speakingSwollen lips, tongue, or throatNausea, abdominal pain, or vomitingFast heartbeat or pulseAnxiety or dizzinessLoss of consciousness
  • Had severe reactions in the past
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  • Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) including:
    • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
    • Tightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closing
    • Hoarseness or trouble speaking
    • Swollen lips, tongue, or throat
    • Nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting
    • Fast heartbeat or pulse
    • Anxiety or dizziness
    • Loss of consciousness
  • Had severe reactions in the past

See Severe Allergic Reaction Treatment.

1. Avoid the Trigger

  • Hives and angioedema that happen suddenly are usually triggered by an allergic reaction to a food, drug, infection, or insect bite or sting.
  • If you know what the trigger is, keep the person away from it.

2. Control Itching and Swelling

  • Give an adult an over-the-counter antihistamine. Check with a doctor before giving an antihistamine to a child.
  • Put a cool compress on the area or have the person take a cool shower.
  • Avoid strong soaps, detergents, and other chemicals that can make itching worse.

3. Follow Up

  • It may take several days for the trigger substance to leave the body. Continue treatment until symptoms subside.
  • If symptoms persist, or to help identify the allergen that caused the hives, see a doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Scott Keller, MD on November 21, 2013

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