Hives are welts on the skin that often itch. These welts can appear on any part of the skin. Hives vary in size from as small as a pen tip to as large as a dinner plate. They may connect to form even larger welts.
A hive often goes away in 24 hours or less. New hives may appear as old ones fade, so hives may last for a few days or longer. A bout of hives usually lasts less than 6 weeks. These hives are called acute hives. If hives last more than 6 weeks, they are called chronic hives.
Acute hives often result from an allergy, but they can have many other causes.
The medical term for hives is urticaria (ur-tih-CAR-ee-uh). When large welts occur deeper under the skin, the medical term is angioedema (an-gee-oh-eh-dee-ma). This can occur with hives, and often causes the eyelids and lips to swell.