You may be able to relieve hives with home remedies, including aloe vera or an oatmeal bath, and over-the-counter products. But a doctor may need to treat severe or chronic hives.

Hives (urticaria) are a rash on your body. Identifying what triggered your hives is crucial to preventing them from happening again. If you can identify the trigger, you can avoid contact with it.

Although hives are often associated with allergic reactions, they can also occur due to:

Hives generally fade within 24 hours and don’t require treatment.

However, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • dizziness
  • swelling in your throat or face
  • difficulty breathing

These may indicate a severe allergic reaction and require emergency care.

If your hives are milder, continue reading to learn how to ease any discomfort and speed up the healing process.

Some remedies and other products may cause a skin reaction. It’s best to do a skin patch test before applying.

How to perform a patch test

To do a skin patch test, apply a small amount of the product to an unaffected skin area. If you can, apply it to the inside of your forearm. If you don’t experience any irritation within 24 hours, it should be safe to apply to any hives.

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In most cases, home remedies can help you find relief. Here are a few ways to soothe itchy skin:

Use a cold compress

Applying something cool to your skin can help relieve irritation and swelling. To do this, grab a bag of frozen veggies or wrap a handful of ice in a towel and apply it to the affected area for up to 10 minutes. Repeat as needed throughout the day.

Take a bath with an anti-itch solution

There are several products you can add to a bath to relieve itching. These include colloidal oatmeal or one or two handfuls of baking soda.

Learn more: How to make an oatmeal bath »

Avoid products that may irritate the skin

Certain soaps may dry your skin and cause more itching when you have hives. Make sure to use a mild soap that’s marketed for sensitive skin. These typically omit fragrance and irritating chemicals.

You should also avoid using irritating moisturizers or lotions. When in doubt, opt for a formula that targets sensitive skin, such as these options. Applying immediately after bathing may also help soothe the itch.

Keep things cool

Heat can make itchiness worse. Wear lightweight clothing and keep the temperature in your house cool and comfortable. Avoid sitting in direct sunlight.

If home remedies aren’t relieving your symptoms — but you aren’t ready to head to the pharmacy — you may want to give a few natural solutions a try.

Natural remedies aren’t regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so use them with caution.

Witch hazel

The natural tannins found in the herb witch hazel can help relieve irritation. Despite this, it may cause contact dermatitis. It’s best to test it on a small patch of skin before applying it all over.

You can apply witch hazel to your skin like a mask a few times each day. Let it sit on the affected areas for about 20 minutes, and then rinse it off.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a natural anti-inflammatory. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, applying it to the skin can help people with acne, herpes simplex, psoriasis, and other conditions affecting the skin. It is typically well-tolerated.

But, as with any new product, it’s important to do a skin patch test before application, especially if you have sensitive skin. Some aloe products may also have added fragrance or other chemicals, so be sure to read the label.

You can apply topical aloe vera to your hives as needed, likely a few times a day. Be sure to follow any instructions on the package.

If the above remedies aren’t enough to help your hives, over-the-counter (OTC) treatments may help relieve your symptoms. Not only can OTC options relieve itching and irritation, but they can also target your body’s histamine response, which is what causes hives.

Calamine lotion

Products containing calamine can help relieve itching by cooling your skin. You can apply calamine lotion directly to your skin:

  1. Make sure you mix the lotion before using it by shaking the container.
  2. Put some calamine lotion on a cotton pad or cloth.
  3. Apply the pad or cloth directly to the hives and let dry.

You can treat the hives with calamine lotion as necessary.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

This oral antihistamine can reduce rash and other allergy symptoms like itching by working from the inside out.

Be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the package. Benadryl usually kicks in within an hour and should start to relieve your symptoms the same day.

Benadryl may cause drowsiness.

Fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Claritin), and cetirizine (Zyrtec)

These antihistamines typically come in 12- or 24-hour formulas to provide extended relief. They’re also less likely to cause drowsiness than diphenhydramine.

You may need to adjust the dosage to effectively treat hives, so talk with a doctor or pharmacist. They can advise you on how much to take and how often.

If you’re experiencing severe or chronic hives, you may need prescription medication. Talk with a doctor about your symptoms and how you can best find relief.

Common prescription options include:

Prednisone (Deltasone)

This corticosteroid is taken orally. You should only use it for a short period of time as directed by a doctor. Corticosteroids can have side effects, especially if taken for extended periods of time. Side effects can include:

  • elevated blood pressure
  • elevated eye pressure (glaucoma)
  • swelling
  • weight gain
  • immunosuppression, which means you may get infections more easily

To reduce side effects, take oral corticosteroids at a lower dose and transition to corticosteroid creams with your doctor’s supervision.

Omalizumab (Xolair)

This medication must be injected under the skin. This option is only available if your hives are chronic and don’t respond to antihistamines. Common side effects include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • inner ear pain
  • cold symptoms

Dapsone (Aczone)

This antibiotic is available topically and as an oral medication. This medication can treat inflammation due to hives or other skin conditions that are caused by bacterial infection. It’s important to take all antibiotics as prescribed.

Antibiotics only help relieve symptoms caused by a bacterial infection.

Leukotriene-receptor antagonists

This nonsteroidal treatment option is taken orally. These drugs should be used only after steroid treatment and antihistamines have been unsuccessful. There is not a lot of quality research to support their use for hives. Common side effects include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • cough
  • low fever

If your symptoms worsen or last longer than a couple of days, you may want to talk with a doctor. They can identify the cause and provide medication to help relieve your symptoms. Understanding your triggers may help prevent future outbreaks.