Chronic Hives: What You Can Do at Home

You can have chronic hives for weeks at a time. Your goal is to find relief, even just for a little while.

Medications help, but lifestyle changes can make you more comfortable, too.

Don’t Dry Out

Some people get new hives from scratching their skin. When it’s dry, it’s itchy.

To help keep moisture in:

  • Use mild, fragrance-free soap.
  • Avoid hot water.
  • Limit baths and showers to 10 minutes.
  • Moisturize right after you bathe.
  • Use a humidifier.

“Soaps aren’t generally thought to cause hives, but some soaps can be really drying,” says Matthew A. Molenda, MD, a dermatologist with Bravia Dermatology in Toledo, OH.

Soothe Your Skin

When you break out, use cool compresses to shrink the blood vessels and bring down swelling, says Rauno Joks, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Hives come from a reaction inside the body, so creams and salves won’t help to get rid of them, Joks says. But you may get relief from anti-itch products such as 1% menthol in aqueous cream.

Watch What You Do

Some things people do or take every day can cause a reaction.

Known skin triggers include:

Alcohol. Along with aggravating hives, it may not mix well with medication you may be taking to treat your skin. Drinking while taking antihistamines can make you especially drowsy.

Aspirin and NSAIDs. Pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen can trigger or cause hives. If you must take an over-the-counter pain reliever, try acetaminophen, Molenda says.

Heat. Try to work and sleep in a cool room. “If you’re having a bout of hives, you might not want to hit the gym or go to the tennis court,” Joks says.

Tight clothes. You don’t want anything rubbing against your welts or putting pressure on them. Stick to loose-fitting, lightweight clothes. And pay attention to what materials you wear. “Wool and other itchy fabrics can make you want to scratch,” Molenda says.

Write It Down

It’s also helpful to keep a diary of your breakouts. Include what you had been doing and eating before they happen. You may be able to find out what your triggers are. If you know them, it will be easier to avoid them.

Know When to Get Help

It’s possible to have an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Get help right away if any of the following come with an outbreak:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Tightness in your throat, hoarse voice
  • Swelling in your lips
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling of doom
  • Chest pains
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on February 23, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Matthew A. Molenda, MD, FAAD, MBA, dermatologist, Bravia Dermatology, Toledo, OH.

Rauno Joks, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine; chief and program director, division of allergy and immunology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY.

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “Urticaria.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Dry Skin: Tips for Relieving,” “Hives: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Outcome.”

Yadav, S. Indian Journal of Dermatology, July/September 2009.

World Allergy Organization: “Urticaria and Angioedema.”

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy: “Urticaria (Hives).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Urticaria (Hives) and Angioedema.”

Medscape Multispecialty: “FDA OKs Omalizumab (Xolair) for Chronic Hives.”

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Anaphylaxis.”

University of Nebraska Medical Center: "UNMC study: Vitamin D provides relief for those with chronic hives.”

Rorie, A. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, April 2014.

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.