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Remedies for Hives

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 10, 2020

Hives — also known as urticaria — are red, itchy bumps that show up on the skin to signal physical irritation. Hives are caused by:

Each hive usually lasts for 24 hours. However, you may get new ones as older ones fade. A minor case of hives can last for a few days. An acute case of hives may persist for about six weeks. If the skin breakout lasts longer than that, it might be a case of chronic hives.

Most cases of hives go away on their own, but you can use home remedies to ease the sometimes uncomfortable symptoms.

Potential triggers for hives include common allergens like:

However, it’s not always easy to spot what could be causing a case of hives. You may be sensitive to less obvious triggers or may have an underlying infection that needs to be addressed. Hives can also develop because of the following:

Remedies and Treatments for Hives

Managing a case of hives can involve relying on home remedies and over-the-counter medication. You may also try making small lifestyle changes to lessen the instances of coming across a trigger that will make your skin erupt in hives. 

Over-the-Counter Oral Antihistamines

Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Claritin (loratadine), and Zyrtec (cetirizine) are over-the-counter oral medications that can help reduce the uncomfortable itchiness and redness from hives.

Antihistamines work on histamine, which is released by mast cells — a certain type of immune system cell — in the presence of an allergen or an irritant.

Anti-Itch Creams and Lotions

You can use over-the-counter topical treatments like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, too.

However, some people can be sensitive to certain topical medications. Children may have a bad reaction to corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone cream. Topical treatment is also not recommended if the affected area is sore, infected, or features an open wound. Hives with these features may only worsen if you treat them with lotions or creams.

Cooling Home Treatments

When you have hives, a cooling sensation may comfort you and draw your attention away from the discomfort caused by skin irritation. Apply cold and wet compresses, use ice on the affected areas, or take a cold bath.

You may also keep some over-the-counter lotions and creams in the fridge, so it’s cool to the touch when you need to apply it on your skin.

Oatmeal Baths

Traditional health care practitioners have used oatmeal for skin issues for hundreds of years. Recent studies have proven its efficacy against symptoms of hives. Studies show that oatmeal has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help to promote healing and reduce the uncomfortable itchiness that comes with hives. 

Experts recommend sprinkling your bath with uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal — a finely ground oatmeal for skincare purposes. You can also sprinkle it with baking soda for extra relief. Keep the temperature of the bath on the cool side. 

Loose Clothing

Wearing loose clothing made of non-scratchy fabrics will help to soothe your skin. Make sure to avoid any particularly scratchy or allergy-inducing fabrics, like wool. Cotton is usually the best choice.

When to See a Doctor

If you have a case of hives that lasts for more than a few days, it’s time to call the doctor.

Sometimes, but not always, hives occur as part of a more serious allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. Seek medical attention right away if you experience hives along with:

  • Dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, eyes, or tongue
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Academy of Dermatology Association: “Hives: Overview.”

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: “Hives (Urticaria).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Hives (Urticaria) and Swelling (Angiodema): Management and Treatment.”

Frontiers in Immunology: “Mast Cell: A Multi-Functional Master Cell.”

Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: “Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin.”

Mayo Clinic: “Chronic hives.”

Mayo Clinic: “Home Remedies: Help with itchy hives.”

Medline Plus: “Hives.”

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