Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: December 2019

Hives, also called urticaria, are a common symptom for people living with migraine. Hives may come and go quickly or may last for days, weeks or even months. Doctors do not know exactly how migraine and hives are connected.

In some people, migraine attacks or hives can be due to a reaction to food sensitivities and food allergies. In others, hives may be a trigger or symptom of the migraine itself.

What are hives?

Hives are red or skin-colored bumps or patches that are usually raised and itchy. When pressed, the middle of the bump turns white. This is called blanching.1 Hives may be seen in one area of the body and then disappear, with new patches popping up on another body part.

Symptoms of hives can last minutes, months, or even years. They can be short-term (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Why do people get them?

Hives may happen when a person is exposed to:

  • Certain foods or drugs
  • Chemicals in cleaning products, or latex
  • Insect bites
  • Pollen or pet dander
  • Stress
  • Exposure to extreme cold or heat
  • Viral or bacterial infections1

How are they treated?

Treating a migraine typically treats the symptoms that come with that migraine. But sometimes hives may be unrelated to the migraine attack.

Hives often go away on their own. If it does not, a doctor can help you figure out the cause and possible treatments. Sometimes drugs like antihistamines may help. Cold compresses or anti-itch skin treatments may also help bring relief.1

Wearing loose-fitting clothing, avoiding known allergens, and staying out of the sun may also help reduce discomfort.

Seek immediate medical attention if the hives come with any of the following:

  • Swelling in the throat, tongue, or face
  • You are having trouble breathing or wheezing
  • You are fainting
  • You have shortness of breath

Tracking your migraine symptoms

Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers to your attacks. It may be helpful to record such things as:

  • When and where your pain or symptoms start
  • Whether the pain spreads to your entire head or neck
  • How well and how quickly acute treatment helps reduce the pain or other symptoms
  • How long your pain or symptoms last
  • Whether you experience other symptoms such as vision changes, nausea, or light sensitivity

Experiences with hives advocates write regularly about their experiences with migraine and their most troublesome symptoms, including hives. One advocate shares how she takes precautions when exercising to avoid breaking out in hives. Several advocates have written about how they try to reduce exposure to triggers that could induce hives, such as certain foods, the sun, and stress. Managing seasonal allergies and the migraine cycle can be more than an inconvenience for those living with migraine.

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