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Hives: humming with histamine and mast cell activity!

Updated: May 22

Hives are a type of skin reaction where you get itchy welts. These round or oval swellings can appear suddenly, can come and go, can include burning or stinging, and tend to occur in clusters.

Another name for them is urticaria.

It doesn’t matter what you call them, if you’ve got them, you’ll know how annoying those raised bumps can be. The discomfort can be enough to impact your daily life and ability to sleep.

Pun intended: they are a hive of activity

Lurking below that welt is an active release of a variety of chemical mediators that are inducing the swelling, redness, and itch of hives.

Histamine, prostaglandin D2 and tryptase are chemical mediators released by mast cells in the area that hives occur (1). Mast cell reactivity is involved in the development of hives.

Hives can develop from an allergic reaction or be a symptom of histamine intolerance or MCAS.

How to Know if it’s Allergy, Histamine Intolerance or MCAS


  • Hives can be acute, typically lasting less than 24 hours.

  • They show up after exposure to an allergen such as certain foods or medications.

Histamine Intolerance


  • Hives can be chronic, lingering for more that 6 weeks.

  • You may have a diagnosis of spontaneous chronic urticaria, or chronic idiopathic urticaria.

  • Vibrations, exercise, sweating, sunlight, stress, heat, cold, or foods high in histamine might be triggers.

  • Triggers may be hard to identify. (Read more here.)

  • You have dermatographism.

  • You also have other symptoms. Download a list of symptoms here.

  • You have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety (2) , a thyroid disorder (3) , rheumatoid arthritis (4) or other conditions that have mast cell involvement.

Not Like a Bee Hive

Unlike a bee hive where we want a bustling community of bees to be busy, with skin hives, we want to create some calm in the skin.

Here are 3 tips to get you started:

  1. Identify the trigger. Whether it’s an allergen, histamine in food, or one of the many mast cell triggers, it’s important to identify the trigger and avoid it.

  2. If stress triggers your hives, find a daily stress management strategy such as meditation or a relaxing Epsom salt bath (if heat isn’t also a trigger).

  3. Eat foods from our Shopping List. Studies suggest that a low histamine diet can reduce the severity of hives (5, 6). Our list isn’t just low histamine, but also mast cell stabilizing! Download it here.


Hives getting the better of you, and just wondering if there is a histamine or mast cell piece to the puzzle here?

Let's help you make that connection. Each month or so we host a free webinar called The Histamine Connection. In it, we explore the role histamine and potentially mast cells may be playing in your symptoms. We also share some beginner tips to get you started. Ready to make that connection to your hives and other symptoms? Register for our next live webinar here. And don't worry, if you can't join us live we will send out a replay link. You'll have one week to watch it!

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