Hives develop when histamine is released into the small blood vessels (capillaries). The capillaries dilate which causes a welt, and fluid oozes into the surrounding tissue, causing swelling. Histamine also causes intense itching.
Review Date 5/2/2017
Updated by: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.