Histamine releasing autoantibodies play a central role in the pathogenesis of chronic urticaria (CU) in approximately 30% of affected patients. We investigated the therapeutic effect of high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) on disease activity in patients with severe CU of autoimmune aetiology. Autoimmune urticaria was diagnosed by the development of a weal-and-flare reaction to the intradermal injection of autologous serum and by serum-induced histamine release from the basophil leucocytes of healthy donors in vitro. Ten patients with severe, autoimmune CU, poorly responsive to conventional treatment, were treated with IVIG 0.4 g/kg per day for 5 days. The outcome on cutaneous wealing and itch was monitored using urticaria activity scores, visual analogue scales and autologous intradermal serum tests. Clinical benefit was noted in nine of 10 patients; three patients continue in prolonged complete remissions (3 years follow-up), two had temporary complete remissions, and symptoms in four patients improved subsequent to treatment. There was significant improvement in the urticaria activity scores and visual analogue scores at 2 (P < 0.01) and 6 weeks (P < 0.01) post-IVIG compared with the baseline values (Wilcoxon matched pairs). The diminution in urticarial activity in the majority of patients corresponded with a reduced weal-and-flare response to the intradermal injection of autologous post-treatment serum compared with the pretreatment serum. Minor side-effects were common, but there were no serious or long-term adverse effects. IVIG represents a novel therapeutic option in selected patients with recalcitrant CU associated with histamine releasing autoantibodies.