Is the hives on the chest a symptom of another health problem?


Hives (hives) can appear as pinkish-red bumps or patches on the skin and are very itchy. They are often signs of an allergic reaction but can also be idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown.

While hives tend to disappear within a few hours, they can reappear. They can appear anywhere on the body that has been in contact with irritating substances, including the breast area.

It’s important to have a doctor check for any rash on the breasts or areola, and not be quick to assume it’s just hives.

Besides hives, other rashes or skin conditions that can occur around the breasts include:

Let’s see how to assess whether your rash is due to hives or another possible cause, and when you should see a doctor for further evaluation.

Hives are mainly caused by our body’s release of the chemical histamine, which is also generated during allergic reactions. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), here are some common allergens and environmental factors that can trigger hives:

  • pet dander
  • insect bites or stings
  • pollen
  • food
  • medications
  • latex

Inflamed bumps can appear if your skin comes into contact with irritating substances, such as perfumes or detergents. Hives can also be a symptom of an autoimmune disease and, less commonly, can be caused by viral infections. Hives and other rashes have been a reported symptom in some people with COVID-19.

Other possible causes and contributors of hives may include:

If you have hives in the breast area, you may also have hives on other parts of the body, especially in the case of an allergic reaction. Check if you have hives on other areas of your skin.

Some people find it helpful to take notes or pictures of their skin irritation to try to determine the cause and show them to their doctor to aid in diagnosis.

Symptoms of hives include raised welts on the skin that are pink or red in color. They are often extremely irritating. Hives tend to occur in multiples and can vary greatly in size. Sometimes smaller hives can grow into a single hive, up to the size of a dinner plate.

A characteristic of hives is that it comes on suddenly and does not last long, usually disappearing within 24 hours. However, hives can recur in cycles, depending on the cause.

Hives have characteristic symptoms, such as swelling and itching, but this condition can be confused with other types of rashes. Explore the images below, which show what hives, eczema, and rashes from inflammatory breast cancer can look like.

Other rashes and forms of skin irritation can mimic the appearance of hives. However, there are often unique determining factors that will help you tell the difference.

insect bites

Some hive-like rashes can develop due to a reaction to an insect bite, but the two are not the same. While insect bites tend to be most common on the arms and legs, they can occur in the chest area and other parts of the torso.

Insect bites that can mimic the appearance of hives usually come from:

An allergic reaction to an insect, such as a bee sting or flea bite allergy, can also cause hives.


Another condition that causes a rash that looks like hives is eczema, which has several different types. Like hives, eczema is red and extremely itchy; however, it looks slightly different depending on the melanin in a person’s skin. The eczema rash itself does not cause welts.

If you have atopic eczema, you may notice this rash come and go. This type of eczema most often begins in infancy or childhood and requires lifelong management and treatment of flare-ups.

Other types of dermatitis (skin irritation), such as contact dermatitis, may also appear as a pink or red scaly rash.

Inflammatory breast cancerr

A rare and aggressive form of breast cancer called IBC can also cause rash-like symptoms.

IBC can manifest as an orange or pinkish scaly rash on the areola or breast, and may include swelling or itching. This cancer is a type of invasive ductal carcinoma, and the inflammation is caused by cancer cells blocking the lymphatic vessels. If not caught early, CIS can quickly spread to lymph nodes.

But unlike beehives, IBC also causes:

  • swelling and tenderness in the affected breast
  • the breast is warm or heavy
  • Pores
  • pitted-looking skin, similar to orange peel
  • inverted nipples
  • dimpling or flattening of the nipples
  • skin on the chest to turn a red or purple color

Some breast cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and hormone therapy, can cause rashes in some people. It is important to report these symptoms to your doctor to rule out drug allergies.

Researchers in one study 2017 found that it was common for dermatitis to develop weeks or months after breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy. This may be due to a loss of skin barrier integrity, which can be corrected by a combination of antibiotics and topical corticosteroids.

Radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer can also cause a red scaly rash known as radiation dermatitis.

To diagnose a rash on the breasts or chest, your doctor will need to perform a physical exam. They may be able to tell the rash is allergy-related right away based on the symptoms, as well as your medical history. They can also order lab tests.

If your doctor determines that your rash is due to an allergy or irritant, they will likely prescribe topical steroid ointment. You will then schedule a follow-up within a month to check on your progress.

Your doctor may refer you to an allergist and recommend allergy testing. This helps determine which allergens your body is reacting to to help you avoid them.

If a rash does not go away after a month, or if IBC or Paget’s disease is suspected, a skin biopsy will usually be done to determine the cause. Your doctor will refer you to an oncologist (cancer specialist) for further medical evaluations, including imaging.

The treatment for hives on the breast depends on the underlying cause. If your hives are related to allergies, your doctor may recommend:

  • avoiding your triggers, such as scented soaps, certain laundry detergents, pollen, and certain foods
  • wear looser clothes
  • taking over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines to keep your body from reacting to allergens
  • having treatment with corticosteroids (by mouth or pical), used short-term to reduce severe inflammation
  • receiving allergy shots to help gradually decrease your sensitivity to certain allergens
  • receiving omalizumab (Xolair) injections for the treatment of chronic idiopathic urticaria only
  • taking immunomodulators or immunosuppressive drugs
  • taking leukotriene receptor antagonists (often used for asthma and allergies), a newer treatment option

If an insect is determined to be responsible for your rash, some culprits (like bedbugs and scabies) may require you to clean up or hire a professional to treat your surroundings to rid yourself of an infestation. . You may also need to take an oral or topical medication.

If your hives continue to recur despite treatment, your doctor may refer you to an internal medicine specialist. They can help rule out any other possible underlying medical conditions that could be causing the hives.

A doctor should evaluate any unusual rash on the breast. This is especially true if your hives keep coming back after several weeks despite treatment. You may want to consult a specialist, such as an allergist, dermatologist, immunologist or internist, to whom your doctor can refer you.

Seek emergency medical attention immediately if your hives are accompanied by other serious symptoms, such as facial swelling and difficulty breathing. These can be signs of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

You should also see a doctor if you have nipple discharge or pus from marks or rashes on your breast. These can be signs of infection.

Finding a rash on your breast can be concerning, but it’s important to know that there are a variety of possible causes. Try not to jump to conclusions without all the information. Consider documenting the rash in a journal or photos to aid in diagnosis, and schedule an appointment with a medical professional.

Hives are just one of the potential causes of a rash on the breasts. This is most often an allergic reaction that results in red welts that become very itchy. Insect bites, eczema, IBC, and other conditions can also cause rashes or bumps on the chest.

Contact your doctor if a rash on your breast gets worse or doesn’t go away in a few days. They can help provide proper testing and an accurate diagnosis so you can receive effective treatment.


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