Living with Chronic Hives

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: April 2022

Chronic hives (urticaria) typically resolve on their own within a few years. While the condition may not be permanent, it often makes a huge impact on daily life and mental health.

People with chronic hives often need to handle many uncertainties and visible, painful symptoms. Stigma and unwanted attention are just 2 of the more common situations people with chronic urticaria contend with.

These difficulties lead to a higher risk of anxiety and depression. However, there are ways to manage your emotional health when you have chronic hives.

The feelings chronic hives generates

The nature of the condition and symptoms affect many aspects of your life. For example, people living with chronic hives often feel:1

  • Embarrassment about visible symptoms
  • Fear when diagnosis is delayed
  • Worry about possible triggers
  • Uncertainty about when symptoms will occur and how severe they will be
  • Agony and discomfort during extreme itchiness
  • Helplessness when severe symptoms seem out of control
  • Stress and fatigue from multiple doctor’s visits and trying different treatments

These emotions are very common. It is normal to feel frustrated during diagnosis and wish your health was the way it used to be. It is also common to be annoyed that you have to consider daily tasks that other people take for granted. All of these feelings and emotions are valid.2

However, these emotions can also lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Mood disorders are more common in people with chronic hives. This can make it harder to manage your healthcare, personal life, and professional life. Plus, stress can be a trigger for hives.3-5

Effects of chronic hives on daily life

Chronic hives also affect many aspects of daily life. People living with chronic hives continue to work and socialize around the condition. This can interfere with your career, relationships, and personal life. Some ways chronic hives affect daily life include:1,6

  • Isolation because of social stigma or embarrassment
  • Poor sleep because of pain and itchiness
  • Problems concentrating at work or school
  • Absences from work or school due to symptoms and doctor’s visits
  • Diet changes to avoid triggers
  • Avoiding certain activities and hobbies
  • Dressing differently to avoid triggers

Coping with chronic hives

Treatments suggested by your doctor can help manage the impact of chronic hives. Antihistamines and other treatments control symptoms for most people. They also might improve sleep and quality of life.7

However, medicine and other treatments do not always work for everyone. This means that symptoms can still interfere with your life.

The emotional impact of chronic hives on your life can be overwhelming. However, there are many ways to reduce the burden of chronic hives. These can improve your quality of life and prevent stress, anxiety, and depression.8

Here are some strategies to cope with different aspects of living with chronic hives:8,9

  • Try lotions, oatmeal baths, and other over-the-counter skin products suggested by your doctor
  • Choose loose-fitting cotton clothes
  • Talk to your employer about accommodations in the workplace
  • Reduce scratching by keeping your nails short or wearing gloves
  • Modify or eliminate activities that trigger hives
  • Avoiding overheating
  • Using a cool compress to reduce itching, unless cold is a trigger
  • Using fragrance-free moisturizers
  • Track your triggers with a symptom diary
  • Distract yourself with hobbies you enjoy
  • Find support from family, friends, and other people you trust
  • Find things to be optimistic and hopeful about
  • Practice stress-reducing activities, such as yoga and meditation
  • Talk to a therapist about your experiences and emotions
  • Advocate for people with chronic hives
  • Join a support group

Remember that you are not alone living with chronic hives. People in support groups can reassure you that your experiences and emotions are normal. They can also offer first-hand advice on what treatments and coping mechanisms worked for them.2

Long-term outlook of chronic hives

Fortunately, chronic hives rarely last more than a few years. Still, the physical and emotional burden of the condition can be significant. It can be challenging, but trying to maintain an optimistic attitude about your future can help reduce your stress.10

Treatments can improve your symptoms and quality of life while you have chronic hives. However, it is still possible to have flares even if you follow your treatment plan exactly. If treatments are not working well for you, talk to your doctor. They can alter your dosage or change your medicines.9

About half of people with chronic hives never find out what is causing their symptoms. But treatments can still improve symptoms even if you cannot find a cause.9

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.