Eczema and hives both result from an immune response and can cause itchy, raised rashes or welts on the skin. However, they have different triggers and eczema is linked to dry skin. Hives can come and go, but eczema is a long-term condition.

Eczema and hives can arise in response to numerous external triggers. Identifying these can help people manage their symptoms.

This article compares and contrasts eczema with hives. We examine the differences in their occurrence, timings, and symptoms. We also discuss risk factors, triggers, treatments, and outlooks.

Experts state that eczema affects 15–30% of children and 2–10% of adults. In contrast, a 2019 study estimates that hives will affect between 8.8–20% of people of all ages.

Research suggests that in 80% of cases, a child’s eczema will resolve within 10 years. Learn more about how long eczema lasts.

Visit our dedicated hub to learn more about eczema.

Hives types and timings

Hives can disappear much faster than eczema. Some people may have symptoms that resolve after only a few hours, and others may have symptoms for a few days or weeks.

A person should speak with a doctor if they have any concerns about their symptoms or timings.

There are several types of hives that typically last for the following lengths of time:

  • Acute urticaria: This type lasts for less than 6 weeks.
  • Chronic spontaneous urticaria: This lasts for more than 6 weeks. Symptoms manifest at least twice a week.
  • Chronic inducible urticaria (contact urticaria): This type lasts more than 6 weeks.
  • Episodic chronic urticaria: This lasts for more than 6 weeks. Symptoms occur at least 2 times per week.

Read more about how long hives last.

Eczema and hives can have similar symptoms, which tend to affect one area or the whole body. There are also some noticeable differences.

Eczema symptoms

Symptoms that are common with eczema include:

Ezema can differ across skin colors. For example, it can often present as a red rash and skin plaques on lighter skin. In darker skin tones, eczema appears as raised skin, thicker skin, and changes in skin pigmentation.

Read more about eczema on black skin.

Hives symptoms

Experts consider raised, itchy welts to be the primary symptom of hives which may blister. Those welts may be pinkish or red on lighter skin, but on darker skin tones, they may not appear or be more subtle.

Learn more about hives on black skin.

There are some key differences between eczema and hives occurring across:

  • age
  • gender
  • environment
  • population

Eczema risk factors

Eczema is more common in children, with around 60% of cases beginning within the first year of a child’s life. Read more about pediatric eczema.

It is more likely to occur among young adults, especially females. However, adult onset is more equally prevalent between males and females.

Eczema also tends to occur more in people who live in rural areas than in urban places. This indicates the possible association between eczema and environmental factors.

The occurrence also differs by population, as the figures below demonstrate:

  • 19.3% of African American children
  • 16.1% of European American people
  • 7.8% of Hispanic American individuals

Hives risk factors

Similar to eczema, hives are more likely to affect younger adults. Females are twice as likely to develop chronic urticaria between the ages of 20–40 years.

In comparison, a 2019 study indicates rural living may inversely associate with allergies. This suggests that exposure to certain environmental factors may protect against allergy in childhood and late adulthood.

Further research concluded that the three populations with the highest rates of hives include:

  • Central Europe
  • Eastern Europe
  • Central Asia

There are some overlaps of potential causes of both skin conditions. However, there are also some key differences in what can trigger the condition.

Eczema triggers

According to a 2017 review, eczema arises due to skin inflammation. Various factors can exacerbate eczema, leading to eczema flare-ups.

Some common triggers include:

  • irritants, including:
    • household products
    • soaps
    • fragrances
  • allergens, such as:
  • certain metals
  • contact with rough fabrics or chemicals
  • cigarette smoke
  • cold, dry, or humid weather
  • stress

Find out more about what triggers eczema flares.

Hives triggers

Research has shown that hives occur when the skin releases too many chemicals called histamines. The skin may do so due to several triggers, such as:

  • allergens
  • extreme temperatures
  • in rare cases, cigarette smoke
  • certain medications
  • exposure to sunlight
  • infections
  • contact with:
    • cosmetic products
    • latex
    • chemicals
  • insect bites
  • psychological factors, such as stress and depression

In some cases, hives also occur without any obvious cause. A person should speak with a doctor to receive a prompt diagnosis of this condition.

Read more about possible causes of hives.

There are three main aspects to eczema treatments.

  1. Daily skin care routine.
  2. Identify any eczema triggers and avoid them where possible.
  3. Treat eczema flare-ups with topical anti-inflammatory medications.

Learn more about treating eczema.

There are some overlaps between the treatments for eczema and hives. For example, a major component of managing hives is identifying and avoiding triggers.

However, doctors will also recommend medications on a case-by-case basis.

Possible treatments include:

In many instances, acute urticaria may often resolve without treatment. People should discuss the options with a dermatologist.

Find out more about treating hives.

The outlook for both conditions can vary depending on when the symptoms occur and when treatment starts.

Outlook for eczema

Research has shown that the majority of childhood eczemas will resolve by adulthood. However, more severe eczema, and those that begin later in life, may persist for longer. Learn more about eczema as an adult.

Eczema scratching can cause damage to the skin. People are more likely to develop skin infections, such as:

People should consult a doctor for prompt treatment to prevent infections.

Outlook for hives

Experts indicate that symptoms of hives disappear within 3 hours. Although they can be unpleasant, the symptoms of hives are rarely life threatening.

However, hives often occur with angioedema, swelling underneath the skin. In some cases, this swelling can make it harder for people to breathe. People with this form of angioedema should seek urgent medical attention to receive treatment.

Eczema and hives are both conditions that affect the skin. Both can arise in response to numerous external triggers. Identifying these triggers can greatly help people manage eczema and hives.

The symptoms, risk factors, and treatments tend to vary. People can speak with a dermatologist to receive a diagnosis and suitable ways to treat their condition.