- Types of hives
- Causes of hives
- Symptoms of hives
- Treatment for hives
- Medical treatments
- Natural treatments for hives
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Things to remember
Hives, also known as urticaria, are pale red bumps which occur on the skin, either due to body’s reaction to certain allergen or due to unknown reasons. They usually just cause itching, but sometimes can also sting and burn. This post features a detailed look at types of hives, their symptoms, causes and treatment options (both pharmaceuticals and home remedies).
Hives can appear on different parts of the body including ear, throat, face, lips and tongue. They also vary in shapes and sizes and can mingle together to form larger areas known as plaque. They can last from hours to weeks, before finally fading. Most cases usually last for lesser than six weeks, however, chronic hives last for longer than six weeks.
This is how hives look like (notice that there are various types of hives, sometimes they appear as red patches while otherwise they have an appearance of a raised white pimple):
Different types of hives (urticaria) on back and forearm
Hives are different from angioedema and shouldn’t be confused with that because, in angioedema, the swelling occurs beneath the skin instead of the skin surface. Angioedema is also dangerous as it can cause swelling in different body parts, including eyes, lips and genitals.
The following are some of the major types of hives:
These are the most common types of hives. They can be due to any allergen to which you are sensitive, like, pet dander, pollen, food, insect bites, medications and dust mites. Some mild cases of hives, caused by allergy, are usually treated with short-term or long-term allergy medications.
Chronic hives are the most bothersome types of hives because they don’t have an identifiable cause. They are also known as chronic urticaria and they can seriously affect your lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic states that these hives can last from about six weeks to several months. You can suspect chronic hives if you have welts that don’t go away within 6 weeks. They may not be life-threatening, but still they are quite irritating and difficult to treat.
Both viral and bacterial infections can lead to hives. Some common bacterial infections causing hives include strep throat and urinary tract infection. Some viruses that cause hepatitis or cold can also cause hives.
Sometimes, the changes in temperature can induce hives in people who are sensitive to these changes. Cold induced hives may be due to cold water or air exposure. Exposure to sunlight and tan beds can also cause hives in some people.
Hives are commonly thought to be due to allergy; however, allergy isn’t a common cause of hives. In acute hives, the cause is the allergy due to drug, food or any other thing which a person has been in contact with. The recurrent attacks, lasting for a few hours, are allergy-related. They often occur in people with other allergy symptoms, like food allergy and hay fever. Physical hives, which occur due to physical factors, like pressure and cold, usually end within 30 minutes to one hour.
Here are some other underlying causes of hives:
Hives can occur in any individual, regardless of sex and age. When hives occur in children, they only occur once. The first symptom may be an itching sensation, leading to the appearance of wheals (red swollen marks on the skin). These raised bumps may fade after a few hours but they can resurface on another part of the body. Slowly, these spots disappear completely and the whole cycle takes about three to four days to resolve.
The hives which occur in adults have a little bit different symptoms from children. Some major symptoms of hives in adults are:
The majority cases of hives don’t require any treatment, because the symptoms go away by themselves. However, there are some types where the symptoms can go on for weeks and months. So, in this section, some medical and natural treatment for hives will be discussed:
If your symptoms are quite persistent and troublesome, you should go for antihistamine medications. However, if your symptoms get worse, you should talk to your doctor about it. In case of severe symptoms, your pharmacist may prescribe some other medications, like corticosteroid tablets.
Pills and thermometer
You should consult your doctor again in case your symptoms get worse or the hives have been ongoing for two weeks.
Here are some medical treatments for hives:
Antihistamines block the effect of histamines and reduce rash and itchiness. Different credible sources claim that antihistamines are quite beneficial against hives (2). The top antihistamine drugs available in the market include cetirizine and loratadine. Most antihistamine drugs don’t cause drowsiness, however, there can be some exceptions. So you should observe how you react to antihistamine before operating heavy machines or driving. Antihistamines may also cause drowsiness when taken with alcohol. So you should always read the information label available with the medication.
Pregnant women should avoid taking antihistamines as their safety isn’t completely known. However, clorphenamine is recommended if it’s clear that it has more benefits as compared to its side effects. Plus, there is no evidence that chlorphenamine harms the unborn baby.
In case your symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe you a high dose of corticosteroid tablets, like prednisolone. Corticosteroids suppress the immune system which lessens the hives symptoms. So, a course of prednisolone (a powerful corticosteroid tablet) lasting between three to five days is usually recommended.
You shouldn’t include the steroid tablets on a long term basis in your diet as they can lead to a wide range of complications and side effects including, glaucoma, cataracts, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The type of antihistamines usually available in the market are H1 antihistamines. However, there is another type of antihistamines, known as H2 antihistamines. Research has shown that these antihistamines have positive effect against hives (3). These antihistamines are helpful in treating chronic hives because they narrow the blood vessels, which reduce the redness in the skin.
The H2 antihistamines can also be used as an alternative to H1 antihistamines or can be combined with them. The side effects of H2 antihistamines are uncommon, but include dizziness, headache and diarrhea. So, you should avoid driving or operating on heavy machine after taking H2 antihistamine drugs.
In about two-third of cases, a powerful medication called ciclosporin has proved to be effective in treating hives. The ciclosporin drug works just like corticosteroids and suppresses the harmful effects of the immune system. It is available in both solid and liquid forms.
Some major side effects of ciclosporin include kidney problems, high blood pressure, headaches, shaking, increasing cholesterol levels and increased vulnerability, like chest infections and urinary tract infections. Other than this, many other side effects can also occur when taking ciclosporin, so, it’s best to discuss with your doctor thoroughly before starting this drug. Some side effects, like high blood pressure are also dangerous because they increase your risk of stroke.
Fexofenadine is quite a useful drug for treating runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes. It is also used for treating hives and itchiness of skin. It can also be used for treating other conditions determined by your healthcare provider. Fexofenadine mainly blocks hives by blocking a substance known as histamine in the body, which reduces the allergy symptoms.
You should, however, adopt certain precautionary measures when taking this drug. For example, you shouldn’t take this drug if you are allergic to a certain ingredients present in fexofenadine. Some medical conditions can also interact with fexofenadine and cause complications. So you should inform your doctor or pharmacist if you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant. You should also inform your healthcare practitioner if you have allergies to medicine, foods or if you have a kidney problem. You should intake the medication by mouth, with or without food.
Leukotriene receptor antagonists are the medications which reduce the redness or swelling of skin. They can be considered a useful alternative to corticosteroid tablets because they don’t have the same risk of wide-ranging side effects. Their side effects are quite rare and minor and include nausea and headaches.
Xolair is an antibody that decreases the allergic responses in the body. This drug is quite beneficial in treating chronic hives in children and adults who are at least 12 years old. However, this drug is usually given when other drugs have failed in proving their effectiveness.
You should be careful while taking this drug because, some people suffer serious and severe, life-threatening reaction within a few hours of the intake of medicine. So you should avoid taking this drug if you notice any signs of infection or you have a history of heart attacks or strokes.
This drug is usually injected under the skin. Your doctor will give you this injection and it needs to be injected every 2 to 4 weeks.
Phenergan is a part of the group of drugs known as phenothiazines. The drug works by changing the chemical reactions taking place the brain. It also blocks the effect of naturally occurring histamine in the body. It is used to treat many different types of allergies including hives.
You should stop using this drug and call your doctor at once if you have uncontrollable movements of lips, tongue, eyes, face and arms. These could be signs of dangerous side effects. Phenergan shouldn’t also be given to children younger than 2 years old because it can cause severe breathing problems in children. You should follow the directions of the doctor before the intake of this drug. This drug should usually be taken at bed time or before meals.
Promethegan is the drug which acts by changing the chemical reactions in your brain. It also blocks the effects of histamine in the body. It is also used to treat a variety of allergy symptoms.
Promethegan shouldn’t be given to children younger than 2 years old as it can cause severe breathing problems and even death, in extreme cases. You should also avoid taking this medicine if you are allergic to mesoridazine, perphenazine, chlorpromazine, trifluperazine and thioridazine.
This medicine shouldn’t be taken through the mouth. It is for use only in the rectum. Empty your bowels or bladder before using this medicine and then carefully insert the cream into the rectum.
Banophen is another drug for treating hives. It is quite beneficial in treating many skin and allergic reactions, including hives. Some of its other uses include relieving itchiness of throat and eyes, and preventing motion sickness. It can also be used to treat many other symptoms as directed by your doctor. The great thing about this drug is that it is both an anticholinergic and antihistamine. It blocks the action of histamine and reduces the symptoms of allergic reactions.
You shouldn’t use this drug if you are allergic to the ingredients in Banophen, or you are breast feeding or taking sodium oxybate. People who have allergies to food and medications should also avoid taking this drug.
You should take this medicine through mouth with or without food. You should use the medicine exactly as directed by your doctor.
Desloratadine is used for treating chronic hives and allergy symptoms. However, it can also be used for certain other conditions as directed by your doctor. It is an antihistamine. It blocks the action of histamine to relieve energy symptoms and the symptoms due to chronic hives.
Although this dug is quite beneficial, you shouldn’t use it if you are allergic to any ingredient in desloratadine. Breastfeeding women and people allergic to food and medicine should also avoid taking this drug.
Use the drugs as instructed by the doctor and check the label for dosing information. An extra leaflet is also present with the drug. However, you should talk to your pharmacist beforehand if you have any questions regarding it. Take this drug by mouth with or without food.
This drug is useful for treating chronic hives. However, it can also be used for certain other conditions, like anxiety and depression, as instructed by your doctor. This drug is an antidepressant and its exact working mechanism isn’t yet known, but it has certain anti-depressants which calm the mind and help in decreasing the incidence of chronic hives. People allergic to the ingredients present in this drug should avoid taking this drug.
Use the drug exactly as prescribed by the doctor. You should check the label for exact dosing instructions. The drug comes with an extra information sheet called Medication Guide which you should read carefully. You should take the drug through mouth in tablet form.
Cetirizine is an antihistamine which reduces the effect of hives in the body. This drug can reduce symptoms of itching, runny nose and watery eyes. It is also helpful in treating the itching and swelling caused by hives. You should avoid taking this medicine if you are allergic to cetirizine. You should also consult your doctor before taking this drug if you have a medical condition.
You should intake the tablet exactly as directed on the label or as instructed by the doctor. You can take this drug with or without food. The chewable tablet needs to be chewed before swallowing.
These are the medical treatments for hives. You should use these medications as directed by the doctor and never increase or decrease the dose on your own consent.
By now, it has been established that hives can be quite uncomfortable for a person. However, there are some natural remedies for the treatment of hives, which have been mentioned below:
Baking soda is quite a popular remedy for treating hives. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which help in reducing inflammation and itching.
How to use?
Using Baking soda for treating hives is quite simple. Just add half cup of baking soda to a bathtub full of warm water. Mix it well and soak in it for about 30 minutes.
How to use baking soda for hives?
Another method is to put two tablespoon of baking soda in a small bowl. Now add enough water to make a thick paste. Now spread the paste and leave it for 10 minutes. Then wash it with warm water.
Oatmeal is quite effective against hives. It has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties which heal the skin quickly.
How to use?
To use oatmeal for treating hives, combine one cup of baking soda with two cups of ground oatmeal. Put this mixture in a bath of hot water. Stir the mixture well and soak it in water for about 15 minutes. Use this bath twice a day until you feel better.
You can also mix two cups of oatmeal, two tablespoon of cornstarch and water to form a paste. Apply it on the affected area and leave it for about 15 minutes. Then wash it with hot water.
Ginger is a wonder drug and can be used for treating hives due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties (4). It mainly targets the genes which improve the skin condition and reduce swelling.
How to use?
To use ginger on the affected area of skin, boil one-quarter cup of brown sugar and one tablespoon of fresh ginger in three-quarters cup of vinegar for several minutes. Mix the solution with warm water and pour on the affected skin several times a day.
You can also chew ginger or drink ginger tea several times a day.
An enzyme called Bromelain is present in pineapples which reduces the swelling due to hives.
How to use?
To use pineapples for the treatment of hives, crush some pineapples and put them in a thin towel. Now pull the corners of the towel together and tie them with rubber band. Now put the pineapple filled towel over the affected area.
When you aren’t using the pineapple compress, store in a refrigerator but replace it every 24 hours. You can also put pieces of pineapple directly on your hives. Bromelain is also available as a supplement in the market which you can use to treat hives.
Nettles have been used for treating hives because they are natural histamines.
How to use?
You can make nettle tea or take them in supplement form. For making nettle tea, take a table spoon of dried nettle and add it to a cup of hot water. Allow it to steep and cool down. Soak a towel with nettles tea and place the damp towel on the hives area.
You should store the used nettles in a refrigerator and make new tea every 24 hours.
Using a cold compress is also quite beneficial for the treatment of hives. It is quite a popular topical treatment and a cold compress after every couple of hours, keeps the hives at bay. It also shrinks the blood vessels which decreases the chances of hives going into the bloodstream.
How to use?
To use cold compress for the treatment of hives, warp about three ice cubes in a thick towel. Now tie the ends of the towel tightly using a ribbon or a powerful string. Now put the cold compress on the affected area of skin. Repeat this home remedy two to three times a day to get rid of pain and the severe itching of hives.
The solution of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar is another popular remedy for hives treatment. Brown sugar is used as a topical treatment to get rid of itching due to hives. Light brown sugar will have the same effect. On the other hand, apple cider vinegar has powerful anti-biotic and antiseptic properties.
How to use?
To make the solution, you will need, ginger, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. First, take about three-quarters cup of apple cider vinegar. Now heat the vinegar slowly. Now add a cup of brown sugar and one teaspoon of fresh ginger into the vinegar. Mix the ingredients and continue the heating and mixing until the solution becomes half its original size. Now, apply the mixture all over the affected area. Keep the mixture on the affected area for twenty to twenty five minutes and then wash it with cold water; never use hot water.
The use of aloe vera is another remedy for the treatment of hives. It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties which reduce the itchiness and inflammation of skin (5). When taken internally, it helps in eliminating toxins and provides immunity.
How to use?
To use aloe vera for the treatment of hives, apply it directly on the affected area of skin. Now leave it for 15 minutes and wash it with warm water. Keep on following this method until the hives heal completely.
Alternatively, you can drink two teaspoons of aloe vera juice to boost your immunity. However, this method should be avoided by children and pregnant women.
The chemical reactions caused by allergies are the root cause of hives. The chemical histamine has to be removed from the body for the effective treatment of hives. So, you should add anti-histamine foods in your diet which will greatly reduce the symptoms of allergy.
Some popular anti-histaminic foods which you can add to your diet are citrus fruit, kiwi fruits, red pepper, broccoli etc. These foods have great antioxidant properties and are rich in Vitamin C which is helpful against skin problems and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Turmeric has quite the reputation for its medicinal properties. The main reason of its popularity is that it stimulates the body’s own anti-inflammatory agent.
How to use turmeric for hives?
It is also a good source of anti-histamines and reduces the overall production of histamine in the body.
How to use?
To use turmeric powder for hives treatment, just take some turmeric powder along with milk. Drink this solution daily to get rid of hives.
Basil works as a natural antihistamine and thus, is helpful in treating hives. Moreover, it can also fight the itching and inflammation associated with hives.
How to use?
To use basil, just put one teaspoon of dried basil leaves in a jar and add water to it. Cover the mixture and allow it to cool down. Now put this mixture on the affected area using a cotton cloth. Alternatively, you can crush some basil leaves with your hand and gently apply them on the hives. Allow the mixture to dry and wash it with warm water.
Mint is quite beneficial for the treatment of hives due to its cooling effect. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which gets rid of the burning sensation quite quickly.
How to use?
To use mint for hives treatment, boil one teaspoon of crushed mint leaves along with two teaspoon of sugar in a cup full of water for five minutes. Strain the mixture and allow it to cool. Now drink it once or twice daily, depending on your condition.
Alternatively, you can add two teaspoons of fresh mint leaves in a cup of water and boil it for five minutes. Now strain it and put the mixture in refrigerator. Take it out after several minutes and apply the cold water on the irritated area for several minutes.
People with excessive dry skin are more likely to suffer from chronic hives. Using organic olive oil is probably one of the best remedies for treatment of hives. Massaging the skin with olive oil will moisturize the skin and directly tackle the effect of dryness of skin. Plus, grape seed oil also has anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties and studies back up this claim (6). So the mixture of these two ingredients cure the skin orders.
How to use?
To apply olive oil and grape seed oil on the affected area, you would require these two ingredients along with a cotton ball. Once you have the ingredients, take three tablespoon of extra virgin oil in a clean glass bowl. Now add four drop of grape seed oil to the virgin olive oil. Mix it well. Now dip a cotton ball in the oil mixture. Take out the excess oil and gently put the mixture on the affected area with the help of cotton ball. Allow the mixture to remain for fifteen to twenty minutes and then wash with warm water.
Another popular way to get rid of inflammation due to hives is to use milk with ice cubes, instead of simply using ice. Milk is quite helpful for reducing the swelling caused by hives. However, people allergic to milk should avoid this treatment because it can worsen the allergy symptoms (7).
How to use?
For using milk compress, simply refrigerate the milk and use it to cool the affected skin. Alternatively, you can freeze the milk and form milk cubes and wrap them with a towel. Then apply it directly on the affected area.
Cornstarch is actually the starch derived from corn grain and is a good home remedy for irritated skin. You can lightly dust your irritated skin with corn starch and this would be of great help. But you should take the precaution of lightly rubbing the skin with cornstarch and not rubbing aggressively as it will worsen the problem.
How to use?
The main requirements to use cornstarch for hives are cornstarch and clean powder puff. First of all, take a teaspoon of organic cornstarch in a plate. Now dip a clean powder puff in corn starch and use the powder puff to dust of the skin welts lightly. Wait for a few minutes and then repeat the procedure. You should repeat this procedure every day if you want some results.
Chronic hives, not only cause discomfort for you but they can also interfere with your daily life activities and mostly, you don’t even know the cause. So, its best to avoid chronic hives in the first place and here are some tips for that:
The Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology states that probably one of the best ways to control hives is to get rid of all the known triggers (8). The first thing you need to do is to see an allergist. The allergy test is done to see whether the body is reacting to the many allergens in the body. Some common allergens include:
If one or more of these triggers are found to be the major cause of hives, the doctor will work with you to find ways to avoid the trigger.
You should avoid stress of all kinds if you want to get rid of hives. Some credible sources also claim stress to be the chief cause of chronic hives (9). And when you come to think of it, stress is one of the underlying cause of all the major diseases. So it is important to develop a new attitude towards life and an optimistic thinking to get rid of stress. You should also try yoga and meditations and if nothing works for you, just avoid stressful situations.
According to ACCAI (American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology), constant friction and pressure on the skin can worsen hives. So you should avoid tight clothing, tight belts and shoes, because hives can also affect the soles of your feet. So you should choose loosely fitting clothing in fabrics.
Refreshing the affected area with ice can really help to reduce the swelling and itching, except when the hives are caused by a cold reaction. In this case, applying cold can worsen the symptoms.
When a person is suffering from chronic hives, most of his efforts are directed towards managing the visible symptoms. But you shouldn’t forget to take care of the invisible symptoms, like depression and anxiety. This is one of the chief reasons because living with a chronic condition can be quite uncomfortable. So it’s best to see a therapist to get help with emotional stress.
Adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet can really help with the symptoms of chronic hives, according to a 2014 study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (10). According to the study, subjects who took Vitmain D3 along with the usual allergy medications had a 33% decrease of symptoms during the first week. However, more research is still needed to confirm the effect.
Most people are quite concerned about hives and want to get answers. So here are the frequently asked questions about hives:
Chronic hives is a type of nettle rash which lasts longer than six weeks. Shorter attacks are known as acute hives and are treated differently. Hives are caused due to a mix of different illnesses, rather than one illness.
There is no simple answer to this question. Some people have it for a year or two and it never returns again. Some people even have the gap of ten to twenty years between episodes while others suffer from it their whole lives. Determining the underlying cause also plays an important role in it. Some people discover the cause of hives early enough to get rid of hives.
Over the last 20 years, doctors have given a variety of counter and over-the-counter medications to get rid of hives from pills to homeopathic remedies. The early hive treatments had a range of negative side effects but certain hive treatments don’t have side effects. So you should educate yourself before starting any kind of prescription.
You may find this overtime that the drugs you are taking aren’t quite effective against hives. So, you should talk to your doctor about switching to something else or changing your combination of drugs.
Ignoring hives can lead to many different kinds of complications, including swelling of throat and difficulty in breathing, swelling of the outer covering of eye (angioedema), itchy skin, effect on the mood and quality of life and severe angioedema which can be life-threatening.
Managing your own care during hives isn’t that much difficult. First of all, every time you go for a test to the doctor, ask for a photograph of the tests and notes. This is your right and if you feel for a moment that the doctor isn’t sincere with you, go to someone else. You should also take any new and recent research finding about hives which you have recently read or heard to the doctor.
Now you know all you need to know about hives. But there are certain things that you need to keep in mind. The first thing is that hives are usually caused by allergic reactions or sometimes, by unknown reasons. You should also know that there are different types of hives and each type needs to be treated differently. Some types are short-lived as compared to others.
You should also know about the different treatment of hives. Many different medications are available in the market for the treatment of hives, including antihistamines, corticosteroid tablets, xolair, promethegan and many others. You can also try out different home remedies mentioned in this article. Lastly, you should know that there are many precautionary measures for hives and you should better follow them, because “Prevention is better than cure”.
So, if you or any of your family members is suffering from hives, follow these remedies to lead a better and more fulfilling life.
|Written by:||Michal Vilímovský (EN)|
|Education:||Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic|
See numbered references within the article.
The first picture (Wikipedia, Wikimedia and Cyron). The remaining pictures - Adobe Stock and Pixabay
|Published:||August 28, 2016 2:58 PM|
|Next scheduled update:||August 28, 2018 2:58 PM|