Are Hives a Symptom of HIV?

Hives (also known as urticaria) is a skin reaction that causes itchy welts, which can range in size from small spots to large blotches several inches in diameter. Hives can be triggered by exposure to certain foods, medications or other substances.

Hives is not a symptom of early HIV infection.

Nonetheless, a rash, usually located in the upper part of the body, can be a symptom of recent HIV infection (exposure in the past four weeks). In this case, the rash would usually occur at the same time as some other symptoms, like a sore throat, swollen glands, muscle ache, joint pains, night sweats, chills, headaches etc.

While these can be symptoms of recent HIV infection, they are non-specific -- that is, they could be caused by many other health conditions, and not just HIV. In fact it is far more likely that these would be symptoms of the flu, mononucleosis or another viral infection than they would be signs of early HIV infection.

Moreover, rashes and other skin conditions are extremely common and have many possible causes. Only occasionally are they caused by HIV.

If you think that you may have been recently exposed to HIV and you are anxious that an unusual skin condition or any other health issue could be a sign of HIV infection, the best way to resolve these fears is by taking an HIV test. Modern HIV tests usually provide accurate results one month after possible exposure.

More on Skin Conditions at

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In addition, our Q&A experts sometimes address questions about hives in our "Ask the Experts" forums. Here are some of those questions and our experts' responses:

  • Hives every day--- symptom of initial infection?
    I had an occupational exposure to blood and took post exposure prophylaxis. Then I started getting large, intensely itchy hives all over my back, torso, neck and scalp. Are hives outbreaks associated with initial HIV infection?
  • hives after intercourse with a sex worker
    I had protected sex with a prostitute two and a half months ago. Four weeks later I started to get hives, quite bad all over my legs and hips, as well as a sore throat. My doctors said it is just an allergic reaction but I'm worried it's HIV.

Elsewhere on the Web

For additional reliable information on hives, we recommend the following page on another website:

  • Hives (On American Academy of Dermatology)