Urticaria or hives is a sometimes serious skin condition that is accompanied by itching, rash and often painful swelling. images of oxyhives It is one of the most common skin diseases. 20 percent of the population sometimes has to deal with Urticaria during their lifetime.

Often hives are transient but for many people the disease remains active for a long time. In Belgium, 50,000 people are said to suffer from a chronic form of this disease.

Urticaria is most common in children between 1 and 4 years. From the age of 15, urticaria is about twice as common in women than in men.

What is hives?

Urticaria or hives is a skin reaction that is characterized by a rapidly emerging (often within 30 minutes), often highly itchy skin rash. At the start there are red spots that can then turn into thickened, light pink spots (‘humps’). These can occur anywhere on the skin. Sometimes the swellings are painful and burning.

The view of the result is reminiscent of the results of contact with nettles, which explains the Dutch name ‘hives’.

The bumps develop very quickly (often within 30 minutes) but disappear just as quickly. Sometimes it takes a few hours or even a day or a night before they disappear completely. In exceptional cases they can last for a few days or even weeks.

Angioedema can sometimes occur simultaneously with urticaria : sudden, more painful than itchy swelling of deeper tissues (face, lips, tongue, hands, feet and genitalia). If a swelling of the mouth and throat or larynx occurs, this can be life threatening.


Angioedema (sometimes also called Quincke’s edema) is a special form of urticaria. The itching is less, but the swellings are much larger than with normal urticaria. Angioedema often occurs on the eyelids, cheeks, lips, tongue and throat, but the genitals and intestines can also be affected. With large swellings, this can lead to serious consequences, such as swallowing problems and breathlessness or severe stomach cramps. Angioedema usually lasts longer than normal nettle fever, often several days before the swelling disappears.

Angioedema and urticaria often occur together, but sometimes angioedema can also occur without a skin rash.

Like normal urticaria, angioedema can have many causes . This may include an allergic or non-allergic reaction to certain food components, some medicines (such as anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-hypertensive drugs, etc.), contrast agents used in medical examinations, an insect sting and so on.

There is also a rare hereditary form of angioedema, which is based on too little production of a certain enzyme, the C1 esterase inhibitor. Due to a deficiency of this enzyme, fluid retention in the tissues can usually develop temporarily and locally as a result of leakage in the blood vessels. This form of angioedema can occur at a young age.