In many cases, treatment isn't needed for urticaria, because the rash often gets better within a few days.
If the itchiness is causing you discomfort, antihistamines can help. Antihistamines are available over the counter at pharmacies – speak to your pharmacist for advice.
A short course of steroid tablets (oral corticosteroids) may occasionally be needed for more severe cases of urticaria.
If you have persistent urticaria, you may be referred to a skin specialist (dermatologist). Treatment usually involves medication to relieve the symptoms, while identifying and avoiding potential triggers.
Read about treating urticaria.
Complications of urticaria
Around a quarter of people with acute urticaria and half of people with chronic urticaria also develop angioedema, which is a deeper swelling of tissues.
Chronic urticaria can also be upsetting and negatively impact a person's mood and quality of life.
Angioedema is swelling in the deeper layers of a person's skin. It's often severe and is caused by a build-up of fluid. The symptoms of angioedemacan affect any part of the body, but usually affect the:
Medication such as antihistamines and short courses of oral corticosteroids (tablets) can be used to relieve the swelling.
Read more about treating angioedema.
Living with any long-term condition can be difficult. Chronic urticaria can have a considerable negative impact on a person's mood and quality of life. Living with itchy skin can be particularly upsetting.
One study found that chronic urticaria can have the same negative impact as heart disease. It also found that one in seven people with chronic urticaria had some sort of psychological or emotional problem, such as:
See your GP if your urticaria is getting you down. Effective treatments are available to improve your symptoms.
Talking to friends and family can also improve feelings of isolation and help you cope better with your condition.
Read about how talking to others can help.
Urticaria can be one of the first symptoms of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Other symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- swollen eyes, lips, hands and feet
- feeling lightheaded or faint
- narrowing of the airways, which can cause wheezing and breathing difficulties
- abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- collapsing and becoming unconsciousness
Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency.
Call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if you or someone else is experiencing anaphylaxis. Tell the operator about your (or their) symptoms.