If you live with chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), the most common type of chronic hives, you’re likely familiar with the frustration and discomfort that comes with itchy skin. Approximately 1.5 million Americans have CIU, and the associated itching can cause trouble sleeping and interfere with daily activities.
Since the underlying cause of CIU is unknown, the condition can be difficult to treat. But there are several options you can try.
Here are seven tips that may help provide temporary relief from itching, especially during flare-ups.
One of the first treatments your doctor may prescribe after a CIU diagnosis is antihistamines. A typical regimen may include nondrowsy H1 antihistamines during the day and H1 antihistamines that can cause drowsiness at night.
But while antihistamines can be effective at treating itch for some people, less than 50 percent of people with CIU respond well to antihistamines.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about which antihistamines may help provide relief. If you’ve already tried them with little or no success, ask your doctor about other treatments and relief methods.
Use a high-quality, fragrance-free moisturizer to help soothe your skin. Regular use can keep your skin hydrated and help build up a protective barrier on your skin’s surface. Additionally, the cooling sensation can bring on immediate relief from itching.
Hot water can further irritate your skin by drying it out. On the other hand, cool water can provide calming effects on your skin. Choose a mild, fragrance-free soap to use during your shower and be careful not to scrub too hard.
While a shower can feel soothing, even a cold shower can be hard on your skin if it lasts too long. Limit showers and baths to 10 minutes for the best results.
In lieu of a cool shower, you may also want to try an oatmeal bath using colloidal oatmeal. Oatmeal can help reduce some inflammation and itching. Remember to keep the water cool to avoid irritating your hives or drying out your skin.
If you don’t have the time for a cool shower or an oatmeal bath, simply apply a cool, wet washcloth to the affected area for instant relief. You can also use an ice pack wrapped in a towel.
The cold temperature against your skin can reduce the swelling associated with hives. Ice can also provide numbing effects to ease itchiness.
Since both perspiration and pressure can worsen your symptoms, choose clothing that is both loose-fitting and comfortable. Clothing that is made from 100 percent cotton or silk is less rough on your skin and can prevent irritation and itching.
Most importantly, wear clothing that keeps areas with hives covered and away from any external irritants.
While scratching may provide temporary relief, it can be counterproductive. After some time, it can just aggravate your hives even further.
Resist the temptation to keep scratching. Seek out other methods of reducing itchiness and do your best to distract yourself when the urge to scratch hits. You can also wear gloves and keep your fingernails short to prevent irritation.
Reducing the itch that comes with CIU and resisting the urge to scratch can be difficult. Try taking cooler showers and consider changing up your wardrobe a bit to help to ease your symptoms. In addition to these tips for dealing with itch, consult with your doctor regularly to discuss your condition and treatment plan.