Hives on the breast may appear as raised, itchy bumps. They typically occur for the same reasons hives arise elsewhere, such as an allergic reaction or irritation. Determining the cause helps doctors find the best treatment.

Hives appear as raised areas or bumps and may develop on any part of the breast.

Hives may occur individually or in batches or groups. They may look like small bumps or large patches.

While hives have many possible causes, they commonly develop due to an allergic reaction. Hives can appear suddenly and last for hours, days, or longer.

The article below examines the causes of hives on the breast and their symptoms, appearance, diagnosis, and treatment. It also explains when to contact a doctor.

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Hives are a relatively common symptom. About 20% of people develop hives at some point in their life.

Hives on the breast may occur for many reasons. However, in some cases, doctors do not identify the cause of hives. When the cause is unknown, doctors classify the condition as idiopathic hives.

Typically, hives on the breast have similar causes as hives elsewhere on the body. Some of the possible causes of hives on the breast include the following:

  • Allergic reaction: An allergic reaction is a common cause of acute or short-term hives. This type of hive on the breast usually resolves in a short time frame. During an allergic reaction, the body releases histamine to combat the perceived threat. That release of histamine may lead to hives on the breast. If the reaction is severe, a person may require emergency medical attention.
  • Skin irritation: The breast area may come in contact with a substance that irritates the skin, such as an underwire bra or scratchy material. This irritation may lead to hives.
  • Infection: Infections such as strep throat, the common cold, and mononucleosis may cause hives, which may develop anywhere, including the breast.

Rare potential causes

There are also rare causes of hives on the breast. For example, this 2022 case study examines a rare instance of hives during nursing due to an allergy. The body produces prolactin during nursing. If someone is allergic to high prolactin levels, hives may occur.

It is also possible to mistake a rash for hives. A rare form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer, which accounts for only 1–5% of cases, may cause skin changes that appear similar to hives. Inflammatory breast cancer may cause persistent skin irritation similar to a rash or insect bite on the breast.

However, most cases of hives do not occur due to breast cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer also causes other symptoms, such as:

  • breast swelling
  • redness occurring on one-third of the breast
  • thickening of the breast skin
  • pain or tenderness in the breast

Read more about breast rashes and cancer.

The symptoms of hives may vary in severity and how long they last. Most hives, including those on the breast, tend to clear in about 24 hours. It is also possible for hives to last longer and become chronic or long term. Doctors classify hives that last longer than 6 weeks as chronic.

Symptoms of hives on the breast may include:

  • raised bumps or welts on the skin
  • itchiness
  • redness or discoloration, depending on a person’s skin tone

Hives are often the same color as the skin or slightly darker or lighter than the natural skin color. Pressing the center of the hive may make it turn white.

Read more about how long hives last.

A doctor may diagnose hives on the breast by performing a medical exam and asking about what triggered symptoms.

Doctors may not do extensive testing if hives are short-lived and additional symptoms do not occur. However, if hives become long lasting (chronic) or occur with other symptoms, the doctor may order additional tests to rule out other conditions and determine the cause. Tests may include:

  • blood test to rule out infections
  • allergy testing to determine the cause
  • skin biopsy to rule out other skin conditions
  • imaging tests if breast cancer is a concern

Mild hives on the breast may respond well to self-care treatments at home, such as the following:

  • using an anti-itch lotion on the skin
  • applying a cool compress to the breast to reduce itching
  • using fragrance-free soap
  • adding colloidal oatmeal to a bath and soaking for the recommended time on the package
  • wearing loose-fitting clothing

Hives that do not go away with home remedies may require additional treatment to control the itch, prevent new hives, and avoid the trigger.

Treatment may include:

Learn more about treating hives.

It is best to contact a doctor if a person develops hives on the breast that last more than a few days or continue to return. People should also contact their doctor if hives cover a large area of the breast or both breasts.

If hives do not respond to home treatment, it is also helpful to speak with a doctor to ensure the correct diagnosis.

People should seek immediate medical care if they have hives along with any of the following:

These symptoms may indicate anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening and requires emergency medical care.

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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Hives on the breast appear as raised, itchy red, pink, or skin-colored bumps.

It often occurs for the same reasons hives occur elsewhere, such as allergies, skin irritation, and infections. If someone has hives and is experiencing signs of anaphylaxis, such as difficulty swallowing and swelling of the throat, it is a medical emergency.

If the cause of hives on the breast is unknown or hives last more than a few days, it is best to contact a doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis.

People may be able to treat their hives at home with anti-itch lotion or a cool compress. Doctors may also prescribe antihistamines, steroids, or other medications depending on severity.