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This information was reviewed and approved by Christine B. Cho, MD (4/1/2019).

Do you have a hives diagnosis?

The diagnosis of hives (urticaria) is often one of exclusion. When attempting to find the cause for hives, it is essential in adults to first rule out the presence of a serious illness of which hives can be a symptom (such as thyroid disease, hepatitis, lupus [systemic lupus erythematosus] or some types of cancer). These conditions are not causes for hives in children. After ruling out an underlying serious illness, identifying the trigger factor or cause of hives should be attempted.


Your Medical History

Every diagnosis begins with a detailed medical history. The medical provider will ask lots of questions about the nature of the hives, where and when they occur and whether the hives seem to be associated with other symptoms. It will be very important to determine if the hives seem to be triggered by a particular substance or event. You may be asked to keep a detailed diary recording outbreaks of hives, foods eaten, drugs taken, environmental factors and activities. Questions about work are also important, because some occupations can be associated with hives.


Testing for Hives

Depending on your history, different blood tests or skin tests may be performed. The number of tests performed is determined after your doctor obtains your detailed medical history. Occasionally for physical urticaria, tests such as an exercise study or ice cube test may be recommended.


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