Chronic hives can be more than itchy and irritating. They can be embarrassing, particularly in dating and relationships. Talk about your condition with friends and loved ones. It can put you and those close to you at ease.
“People are always worried about skin conditions being contagious or being a sign of something more serious,” says Carolyn Goh, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA.
Start by just telling those close to you that you have chronic hives, especially if they’re visible. You'll also want to let them know about all the things your hives are not, Goh says.
What They Aren't
Some facts you may want to touch on include:
They’re not contagious. They don’t spread from one person to another, not even with skin-to-skin contact.
They’re not bug bites. Chronic hives can look a lot like the bites of bedbugs or fleas, Goh says. If you’re starting a relationship, it might relieve your new significant other to know your hives aren't because you're dealing with those little friends.
They’re not a sign of something more serious. Chronic hives can cause swelling of the lips and tongue and around the eyes. That may make you talk more slowly. This could alarm someone who doesn’t know about your condition. They may think you have something more serious.
Philip C. Halverson, MD, with Allergy and Asthma Specialists in Minneapolis, says it might help to reassure friends and family that you have chronic hives and not something worse.
“You’re healthy otherwise. There’s nothing going on in your body that is wrong or serious,” Halverson says.
It can also help to let your friends and family know what chronic hives are. This could put them at ease.
They’re not uncommon. About 1 in 200 people will get chronic hives at some point in their lives. “I tell [folks] it’s a common thing. You’re not weird,” says Olajumoke O. Fadugba, MD, the Associate Allergy & Immunology Fellowship Program director and an assistant professor of clinical medicine with Penn Medicine.
They probably won't be permanent. Chances are good your chronic hives are a temporary thing. Most of the time they go away on their own in 2 to 5 years, Fadugba says.
How Your Friends Can Help
Talking about your condition with friends and family also gives them the chance to make your life easier. It's important they lend a hand in ways that help you, such as:
Please don't guess the cause. Often, family and friends suggest potential causes of the hives, says Timothy Berger, MD, a clinical professor in dermatology at UCSF. They’ll often point the finger at food or medication.
Most of the time hives have nothing to do with either. Usually the cause is unknown. You can kindly ask loved ones to stop guessing what’s behind your hives.
“A partner thinks if they’re very supportive, they’ll be actively figuring out what’s going on,” Berger says. That can be hard for you to handle.
Help me manage stress. Anything that lowers your anxiety should help ease your symptoms, says Heather Gutekunst, MD, of Allergy Partners of Raleigh, NC. Gutekunst says family members often are more anxious about the hives than the person who has them. Ask them to not to worry, especially if their concern raises your anxiety level.
Gutekunst says it can also help to explain to loved ones that the stress or excitement that can make the symptoms worse aren't always bad. Exercise can trigger symptoms. So can big life events, like having a baby or getting married. So even when the stress is “good stress,” symptoms can get worse.
Waiting to talk about your hives, especially if you’re starting a new relationship, can only make you anxious, and that could make your symptoms worse.