Is this cause for concern?
Hives (urticaria) is a rash on your body. Although hives are often associated with allergic reactions, they can also be triggered by:
- insect bites or stings
- cold temperatures
- other underlying conditions
Identifying what triggered your rash is crucial. If you can identify the trigger, you can avoid contact with it and prevent more hives from forming.
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:
- swelling in your throat or face
- difficulty breathing
These may be signs of 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.
In most cases, home remedies are all you need to find relief. Here are a few ways to soothe your itchy skin:
Use a cold compress
Applying something cool to your skin can help relieve any irritation. To do this, grab a bag of frozen veggies or wrap a handful of ice in a towel and apply 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 oatmeal (specifically marketed as colloidal oatmeal for bathing) or one or two handfuls of baking soda.
Avoid certain 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 soap that’s marketed for sensitive skin. These typically omit fragrance and other irritating chemicals.
You should also avoid using irritating moisturizers or lotions. When in doubt, opt for a formula that targets sensitive skin. 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 typically aren’t regulated or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so use with caution.
The natural tannins found in the herb witch hazel can help relieve irritation. You may want to prepare your own witch hazel mixture to use as an astringent to maximize the tannins.
To do this:
- Add 5 to 10 grams of witch hazel bark to 1 cup of water.
- Mash the bark up.
- Pour the mixture into a pot.
- Bring to boiling and remove from the heat.
- Strain the mixture.
- Let the mixture cool before application.
You can apply this 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 off.
Witch hazel can be purchased online or at your local health store.
Aloe vera is a plant known for its healing properties.
Although it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, it may cause contact dermatitis, so it’s important to do a skin patch test before application.
To do a skin patch test, simply apply a small amount of the product to an unaffected area of skin. If you can, apply 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.
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.
Topical aloe vera gels or creams can be purchased online or at your local pharmacy.
If home and natural remedies aren’t enough to help your hives, over-the-counter (OTC) treatments may be your best bet. Not only can OTC options relieve itching and irritation, they can target your body’s histamine response, which is what causes hives to appear.
Products containing calamine can help relieve itching by cooling your skin. You can apply calamine lotion directly to your skin:
- Make sure you mix the lotion before using it by shaking the container.
- Put some calamine lotion on a cotton pad or cloth.
- Apply the pad or cloth directly to the hives and let dry.
You can treat the hives with calamine lotion as necessary.
This oral antihistamine can reduce the rash and other symptoms, like itching, by working from the inside out. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the package. The medicine usually kicks in within an hour, and you should see symptom reduction 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 your doctor or pharmacist. They can advise you on how much to take and how often.
If you’re experiencing severe or chronic hives, prescription medication may be necessary. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and how you can best find relief.
Common prescription options include:
This corticosteroid is taken orally. You should only use it for a short period of time as directed by your 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)
- weight gain
Long-term use can lead to:
- high blood sugar
- reduced hormone release from the adrenal glands
- poor immune response to pathogens so you can get infections easier
- thinning skin
To reduce side effects, take oral corticosteroids at a lower dose and transition to corticosteroid creams with your doctor’s supervision.
This antibiotic is available topically and as an oral medication. This medication can treat inflammation caused by hives or other skin conditions caused by bacterial infection. It’s important to take all antibiotics prescribed.
This nonsteroidal treatment option is taken orally. These drugs should be used only after steroid treatment and antihistamines have been unsuccessful. Common side effects are headache, stomach upset, cough, and a low fever.
This medication must be injected under the skin. This option is only available if your hives have lasted for months or years. Common side effects are headache, dizziness, inner ear pain, and cold symptoms.
When to see your doctor
If your symptoms worsen or last longer than a couple of days, see your doctor. They can identify the cause and provide you with medication to help relieve your symptoms. Understanding what caused the hives is key to preventing future outbreaks.