Causes of Hives in Children

Children develop hives as often or more often than adults. But frequently, the causes of hives in children cannot be pinpointed. A hive is a circular area of raised skin that shows swelling and can occur in groups. They can vary in size from a small pimple to a large welt and usually remain on the skin for a day before disappearing. Hives in children are typically caused by allergic reactions, skin irritations and exposure to heat or cold.


According to the Children’s Hospital, sudden exposure to cold can cause hives. Exposure to heat and sunlight may also cause hives. The hives may last a few minutes or many hours. Heat can also cause perspiration, and excessive perspiration can cause hives, according to Medline Plus. Children who are nervous or emotionally stressed may also develop hives.

Allergic Reactions

There are many airborne particles that can cause hives. Pollen from trees and cat dander may cause an allergic reaction. Mold spores may also enter the air and irritate allergies to the point of causing hives.

It is possible to have an allergy to nearly any food item. The main foods that cause hives are shellfish, nuts, eggs, milk, fish and fruit. According to the Children’s Hospital, food probably accounts for only about 5 percent of acute hives cases.

Drugs can have side effects that cause hives and may also contain ingredients to which the child is allergic. All medications and their ingredients should be double-checked if the child develops hives.

An insect bite is another cause of an allergic reaction. The bite irritates the skin and may even introduce mild toxins that produce allergic reactions, possibly resulting in hives.

Other Reactions

Food additives and dyes have also been shown to cause hives. Food additives, flavor enhancers and antioxidants are known as pseudo-allergens. Though they may cause hives in children, there are no tests for such allergies. Dyes in clothing and other materials may cause a reaction from contact with the skin. Usually, these hives will occur only where the object touched the skin.

A myriad of infections also cause hives. Viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections all may cause the symptom of hives in children. They include mononucleosis, lupus, leukemia, and other autoimmune diseases.

Because there are so many different possible causes for hives, the true cause may not be discovered. Some hives are simply idiopathic, meaning they occur without a known cause, and can merely be treated. With tests, the specific cause of most cases of hives may be discovered.

About this Author

Jamie Simpson is a researcher and journalist based in Indianapolis with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. She earned her B.S. in animal science from Purdue University, and more recently a Master of Public Affairs-Certificate in public management from Indiana University. Simpson also works as a massage therapist and equine sports massage therapist.