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Hives vs. Shingles — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Maham Liaqat — Updated on April 24, 2024
Hives are a skin reaction causing itchy welts, often due to allergies; shingles is a viral infection causing a painful rash, triggered by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus.
Hives vs. Shingles — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Hives and Shingles


Key Differences

Hives, also known as urticaria, appear as red, itchy welts on the skin, often as a result of allergic reactions to food, medication, or other irritants. Whereas shingles, medically known as herpes zoster, manifests as a painful, blistering rash typically occurring on one side of the body or face.
The cause of hives is related to the body's release of histamine, which leads to swelling and itchiness. On the other hand, shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
While hives can appear and disappear quickly over hours or days, shingles rashes develop over a few days and may result in pain that persists for weeks.
Hives are generally treated with antihistamines to reduce itching and swelling, whereas shingles treatment focuses on antiviral drugs to reduce the severity and duration of the infection.
Hives are not contagious, but shingles can be contagious to individuals who have not had chickenpox, as they can contract the virus from direct contact with the shingles rash.

Comparison Chart


A skin reaction forming itchy welts.
A viral infection causing a painful rash.


Allergic reactions, stress, infections.
Reactivation of varicella-zoster virus.


Red, itchy welts; swelling.
Painful rash, blisters, possible nerve pain.


Not contagious.
Contagious to those not immune to chickenpox.


Antihistamines, avoiding irritants.
Antiviral medications, pain management.

Compare with Definitions


Temporary outbreaks of swollen, often itchy, red patches on the skin.
Stress can sometimes cause hives.


A condition affecting nerves and skin, resulting in pain and blister formation.
Postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles that can cause severe pain.


Itchy welts that can burn or sting.
Applying a cool compress can soothe hives.


A viral infection that causes a painful skin rash with blisters.
Early treatment of shingles can help shorten the infection and lessen the chance of complications.


A skin condition characterized by swollen, pale red bumps.
She developed hives after eating strawberries.


A reactivation of the chickenpox virus leading to a painful rash.
Shingles often appears as a band of blisters that wraps from the back to the front of the torso.


A response to medicine, causing allergic skin eruptions.
Certain antibiotics can trigger hives in sensitive individuals.


An illness with symptoms of pain, itching, and sensitivity in a localized area.
Symptoms of shingles can also include fever and headache.


An allergic reaction visible on the skin.
Hives can appear suddenly when triggered by allergens.


Shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a localized area. Typically the rash occurs in a single, wide stripe either on the left or right side of the body or face.


Hives, also known as urticaria, is a kind of skin rash with red, raised, itchy bumps. They may also burn or sting.


Herpes zoster, caused by Human herpes virus 3, in genus Varicellovirus.


Itchy, swollen, red areas of the skin which can appear quickly in response to an allergen or due to other conditions.


A kind of herpes (Herpes zoster) which spreads half way around the body like a girdle, and is usually attended with violent neuralgic pain.


Plural of hive


Eruptions along a nerve path often accompanied by severe neuralgia


The croup.


An itchy skin eruption characterized by weals with pale interiors and well-defined red margins; usually the result of an allergic response to insect bites or food or drugs

Common Curiosities

Are hives dangerous?

While uncomfortable, hives are generally not dangerous but can signal an allergic reaction that might require medical attention.

What triggers hives?

Hives can be triggered by allergies, stress, infections, or certain medications.

What causes shingles to reactivate?

Shingles reactivates due to weakened immunity, often associated with age or immune-suppressing conditions.

What are common treatments for hives?

Antihistamines are commonly used to treat hives and relieve symptoms.

How long do shingles last?

The rash usually lasts 2-4 weeks, but nerve pain can persist longer.

Can stress cause hives?

Yes, stress is a known trigger for hives.

Can children get shingles?

Yes, though it is less common, children can develop shingles, especially if they had chickenpox early in life.

Can shingles be prevented?

Vaccination against chickenpox and the shingles vaccine can help prevent shingles.

What complications can arise from shingles?

Complications can include postherpetic neuralgia, vision loss, and neurological problems.

What are the signs of shingles?

Early signs include tingling and localized pain, followed by a red rash and blisters.

How can hives be prevented?

Avoiding known allergens and triggers is key to preventing hives.

What should someone do if they suspect they have hives?

Consult a healthcare provider, especially if accompanied by difficulty breathing or swelling around the throat.

Is there a cure for hives?

Hives often resolve on their own, but treatment can alleviate symptoms.

Is it possible to get shingles more than once?

Yes, it is possible to have shingles more than once, although it's not common.

How effective is the shingles vaccine?

The shingles vaccine is highly effective in preventing shingles and its complications.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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