When you have an allergic reaction to a substance, your body releases histamine and other chemicals into the blood. This causes itching, swelling, and other symptoms. Hives are a common reaction. Persons with other allergies, such as hay fever, often get hives.
When swelling or welts occur around the face, especially the lips and eyes, it is called angioedema. Swelling can also occur around your hands, feet, and throat.
Many substances can trigger hives, including:
- Animal dander (especially cats)
- Insect bites
- Shellfish, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, and other foods
Hives may also develop as a result of:
- Emotional stress
- Extreme cold or sun exposure
- Excessive perspiration
- Illness, including lupus, other autoimmune diseases, and leukemia
- Infections such as mononucleosis
- Exposure to water
Often, the cause of hives is not known.