There are many possible causes of itchy rashes on skin, such as eczema, psoriasis, hives, heat rash, or parasites or insects living on the skin.1 In older adults, itchy skin might sometimes be due to serious medical condition such as kidney failure, liver disease, a blood disorder, an overactive or underactive thyroid, HIV, advanced cancer, nervous system conditions or a mental health disorder.1 Identifying what causes itchy skin is important for treatment.
How do I know if the itchy red bumps are hives?
- Hives are raised, itchy red bumps on the skin which may feel like a mosquito bite. They are generated by the body within seconds, vary in size from small to the size of a dinner plate and may have a burning or painful sensation. There is sometimes swelling of the skin which can take up to 72 hours to disappear.2
- The affected skin will return to normal within 1-24 hours and there is no permanent mark left on it. In some people the new hives will appear every day, and this will continue for many weeks, months or years.2
- Hives are always associated with itchiness. The impact that the itch has on your life can range from a mild itch which you notice every now and again to a nasty itch that bothers you most of the time and can severely impact your quality of life.
Photo of hives. Used with permission from DermNet NZ.
See your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
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- Healthdirect Australia Ltd. Itchy skin. Haymarket, NSW (Australia) Healthdirect Australia. 2019. Available from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/itchy-skin Accessed August 2021.
- Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. ASCIA HP Position Paper Chronic Urticaria Guidelines 2020. Available from https://allergy.org.au/images/stories/pospapers/ASCIA_HP_Position_Paper_CSU_2020.pdfAccessed August 2021.