A person is shown with swollen eyelids as a thermometer displays rising temperatures and a hot sun shines

Chronic Hives: Summer Edition

Last updated: June 2022

The summer can be a fun and relaxing time of year. But for people with chronic hives, the warm summer temperatures can introduce new challenges.

Hives are a skin reaction that causes itchy, red bumps. Chronic hives are hives that last longer than 6 weeks. There are many triggers for chronic hives. But some of these triggers can be more common in the summer.1-3

How does heat trigger chronic hives?

Doctors cannot always identify the cause of chronic hives. For many people, certain triggers cause their body to respond with hives. Heat or sun exposure can be a trigger for some people. But factors caused by heat can also be triggering.1,2

A common cause of hives is an allergic reaction. This happens when the body detects a certain foreign substance, or allergen. In response, the body overreacts and can cause inflammation, such as hives. Many common allergens are more widespread in warm temperatures. Summer allergens that may trigger hives include:2,3

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Insect bites
  • Plants such as poison oak, poison sumac, or poison ivy

Warm summer temperatures are also more likely to make us sweat. For people with sensitive skin, sweat can irritate the skin. This may also trigger hives.3

What is the difference between hives and rashes?

Not all skin reactions are hives. Certain infections may cause symptoms that look like hives. But infections need to be treated differently than hives. It can be helpful to pay attention to your symptoms to figure out whether a skin reaction is your normal chronic hives or something else.3

Another condition that can look like hives is called angioedema. Angioedema can also be caused by an allergic reaction. But angioedema is swelling under the skin, not a reaction in the skin like hives. Angioedema can sometimes look like hives. Besides swelling under the skin, angioedema causes other symptoms such as:4

  • Swelling around the eyes or mouth
  • Swelling of the hands or feet
  • Swelling of the throat or difficulty breathing
  • Stomach cramps

For most people, angioedema is not serious. But some people get swelling of the throat, which needs immediate treatment. Talk with an allergist if you are not certain if you are experiencing hives or angioedema. Your allergist should be able to diagnose your condition and determine what treatments may be right for you.4

How to manage summer triggers

Even though summer and heat can trigger hives, there are things you can do to help your skin. For example, if the sun is a trigger, you can try to avoid the sun in the middle of the day when it is strongest. If you must be out in the sun, wear protective clothing and apply sunblock. If you are around biting bugs, apply bug spray.2-4

A key in managing triggers is properly identifying them. If you can identify your triggers, you may be able to avoid them and prevent hives. An allergist can use tests to identify triggers. They will typically use a skin test. If you can identify that your hives are caused by allergens, allergy drugs like antihistamines may be able to prevent or treat your hives.4

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