Hives or Psoriasis? How to Tell the Difference

Table of Contents

hives or psoriasis

Hives and psoriasis are skin conditions that are often confused with one another. Both result in itchy patches of red skin and can spread to multiple locations on the body or can be confined to one area of inflammation. However, they have different causes and unique symptoms that can help you tell them apart. Determining whether you have hives or psoriasis will help your doctor or allergist establish a treatment plan. 

hives or psoriasis

Determining Hives

Hives or urticaria usually result from an allergic reaction. They appear as raised welts on one or many parts of the body. Hives can be caused by:

  • Stress
  • Sensitivities to certain foods, including tree nuts, eggs, and soy
  • Infections, including mononucleosis, fungal infections, and hepatitis
  • Exposure to certain animals, such as cats
  • Medications, including penicillin, aspirin, and blood pressure medications
  • Insect bites

Hives can last from a few minutes to a few hours of exposure to allergens. They aren’t a lifelong condition that required ongoing treatment. The allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers can diagnose hives with an allergy test. We offer various methods of allergy testing and treatment to soothe your symptoms related to hives. 

Treatment for urticaria includes antihistamines and anti-itch creams. To prevent recurring cases of hives, it’s essential to avoid your triggers. Consult with allergy specialists to learn how to avoid allergy triggers and manage hives.

Determining Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition in which skin cells build up and form red, scaly lesions. It can also appear as dry, cracked skin that may bleed. Psoriasis is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells; however, researchers are not entirely clear what causes this attack. Many believe that genetics and environmental factors play a role in developing psoriasis. Patients with a family history of eczema, allergies, or psoriasis increase the likelihood of developing the skin condition. 

Triggers of psoriasis include:

  • Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
  • Weather, especially cold, dry conditions
  • Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
  • Stress
  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications — including lithium, high blood pressure medications, and antimalarial drugs
  • Rapid withdrawal of oral or systemic corticosteroids

Rashes can grow anywhere, but most appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Psoriasis is usually a chronic condition meaning it can last years or be lifelong. A primary care physician or dermatologist can diagnose and treat it. Treatment for psoriasis may include steroids (oral or topical) and other moisturizers. Talk to your doctor about managing psoriasis.

Other Skin Conditions 


Eczema or atopic dermatitis is an itchy inflammation of the skin. It usually develops in early childhood beginning in infancy. Like psoriasis, eczema is more common in people who have a family history of the condition. Eczema and psoriasis have a similar look, and they can appear in the same places of the body. 

The biggest difference between eczema and psoriasis is the underlying cause. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease while eczema is caused by an inability to retain moisture in the skin. Another difference is the intensity of itchiness. Psoriasis tends to cause milder itching. Eczema, on the other hand, can lead to very intense itching. Ask your doctor or one of our allergists which anti-itch cream will help relieve your itching.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a condition where the skin becomes sore, red, itchy, or swollen after contact with an irritant or allergen. It is much like hives in that it results from contact with an allergen. Contact dermatitis results in large, burning, and itchy rashes that can take days or weeks to heal. This differs from hives in which a rash appears within minutes of exposure and then fades away within minutes to hours. 

Both skin conditions are treated by an allergist at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. Book an appointment online or call (212) 686-6321 for a consultation and personalized treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes Hives?

Hives are caused by exposure to certain allergens. The most common causes are certain foods, medications, or infections.

What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells. Common psoriasis triggers include infections and cold, dry weather.

What Is The Difference Between Hives And Psoriasis?

Hives come on suddenly while psoriasis appears gradually. Hives are also slightly raised while psoriasis rashes are more scaly. 

What Is The Difference Between Eczema And Psoriasis?

The skin is thicker and more inflamed in psoriasis than with eczema. Itching is also more intense with eczema. 

How Do You Treat Hives?

Hives usually resolve on their own. However, an allergist can provide antihistamines and anti-itch creams to help soothe your symptoms.

How Do You Treat Psoriasis?

You may need steroids and moisturizers to help manage psoriasis. Psoriasis is a lifelong condition that can flare at any given time.

What Happens If Psoriasis Is Left Untreated?

Left untreated, patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis could develop psoriatic arthritis. This can cause pain, disability, and permanent joint deformities.

Where Do Hives Appear?

Hives can appear anywhere on the body but most often appear on the face, arms, and back. 

Where Does Psoriasis Appear?

Psoriasis can occur on the skin anywhere on the body. It most often develops on the knees, elbows, or scalp.

How Do I Know If I Have Hives or Another Skin Condition?

Visit an allergist at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers to determine if you have hives or psoriasis. If your skin condition is not related to allergies, we may refer you to a dermatologist for a more accurate diagnosis.