Hives and Angioedema Treatment

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 05, 2021

Call 911 if the person has:

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

Questions to ask your doctor:

  1. Can the reaction happen again?
  2. What's my risk of anaphylaxis, a serious reaction that's sometimes life-threatening?
  3. What exactly am I allergic to?
  4. What should I do if I come in contact with it?
  5. Should I carry an epinephrine injection kit (Auvi-Q, Adrenaclick, EpiPen, Symjepi or a generic version of the auto-injector)?

If available, do not hesitate to use the epinephrine auto-injector if you suspect a severe allergic reaction or there are any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. Using the pen as a precaution is safe and could save their life.

Call 911 even if you gave an epinephrine injection as the allergic reaction may still get worse or the symptoms may come back.

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, or insect bite or sting.
  • If you know what the trigger is, keep the person away from it if possible.

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, as confirmed by your doctor.
  • If symptoms persist or return, to help identify the allergen that caused the hives, see a doctor.
WebMD Medical Reference



American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Tips to Remember: Allergic Skin Conditions."

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: "Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)."

Kaiser Permanente: "Hives: After Your Visit."

Hives and Angioedema Information from eMedicineHealth.

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.