Frequency and Distribution of Urticaria

25 Percent

Urticaria, also known as hives/nettle rash, is one of the most common skin diseases. Generally the definition “Urticaria” is given preference as it is an international term and the patients affected do not really have anything to do with nettles or wheals. About one in four people experience urticaria in the course of their lives. Most of these episodes last only for a few days or weeks and are uncomplicated. It is generally termed acute urticaria. Urticaria lasting for several months or years (sometimes decades) is much more difficult to endure and is then defined as chronic urticaria.

Urticaria – a typical women’s disease?

Almost all the studies into this issue reveal that women, do indeed, suffer more frequently from urticaria than men do. For chronic idiopathic urticaria, a ratio (women to men) of 2:1 has been revealed. Surprisingly this ratio does not hold true for children, i.e. girls suffer from the condition roughly as frequently as boys do, whereby little data is available in such connection. Why adult women develop chronic urticaria in higher numbers than adult men do has not been ascertained yet. It may reflect that the severity of this form of hives is frequently greater in women, lasts longer or that women are more inclined or prepared to consult a doctor for treatment. It is also interesting that men are more frequently affected by the inducible forms of urticaria, such as urticaria factitia; possibly because the symptoms associated involve particularly strenuous physical activity and are considered annoying.

Age and geographic distribution

Urticaria can break out at any age, from early infancy to old age. The age group of the 30 to 50-year-olds is the most frequently affected. First-time occurrences after 70 are rare. By contrast, hives that last only a few days are not uncommon in new-borns. Even in the case of worldwide distribution, this disease is not choosy. Urticaria is known on all the continents.

Figures and facts relating to hives

Urticaria is a particularly common disease. It is estimated that one in four people experiences urticaria at least once in their lives. This generally involves acute urticaria. According to conservative estimates currently 1 in 100 suffers from chronic urticaria. Data on average durations of the disease are rare and often contradictory (urticaria is a very unpredictable disease). Frequently chronic urticaria lasts several years. Some patients report about decades with the disorder. Individualised predictions are not possible. It is important to know that chronic urticaria disappears at some time or the other in all patients. This means urticaria appears spontaneously and very frequently disappears spontaneously. Contrary to neurodermatitis or psoriasis the disposition to develop this disease is not inherited.


GA²LEN, the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network, has started the UCARE program. UCARE stands for Urticaria Centers of Reference and Excellence. The UCARE Network is supported by UNEV.

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On October 1st, 2017, UNEV will help to host and promote World Urticaria Day.

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