Ever noticed those pink, itchy rashes that suddenly appear on your skin? If you’re like 20% of the population, you probably have developed these rashes – called hives or urticaria – at some point in your life. Usually the size of a peanut (2–3 cm), hives are usually harmless and rarely a cause of a serious medical condition. And here’s everything you need to know about them.
Causes Of Hives
Hives are formed when a chemical called histamine is released into your skin. These chemicals are produced by the mast cells, which lie underneath your skin and other body organs. When they are released into the skin, your nerve endings are irritated. This causes redness, itching, and inflammation, thus resulting in a hive.1 Following are some of the triggers and causes of hives.2
- A viral infection
- A food allergy (caused by peanut, eggs, nuts, and shellfish)
- Pollen or dust allergy
- Insect stings
- Physical stimuli like cold or excess heat.
- Pet dander
- Blood transfusion
- Certain medications.
Do You Need A Diagnosis?
Hives – or urticaria – don’t always require a diagnosis. Most hives are temporary and are caused by insect bites or physical stimuli, such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise, or sun exposure. These hives fade away on their own in a day or two. They are harmless and rarely last over a week. However, if hives last for more than 6 days, it could be chronic and the result of an allergy.3
A chronic urticaria is often an allergic reaction to something around you or something that you ate. And in most cases, a hive breakout occurs as soon as you are exposed to the allergen, making the trigger pretty obvious. However, to test for food allergies, your physician might conduct a series of tests – skin tests, blood tests, and urine tests.4
How You Can Treat Hives At Home
While most hives resolve within a few days, there are a few things you can do to reduce the inflammation and the itchiness.
1. Take A Cold Shower
Taking a cold shower can soothe the inflamed skin and reduce the irritation. You can also add run a cold bath and add uncooked oatmeal or baking soda to your water to obtain relief from the itchiness. Alternatively, you can opt for a cold compress and apply ice packs on the hives. However, make sure to avoid hot showers as they can aggravate the rashes.
2. Wear Loose Clothes
Wearing tight clothes can create friction and make the inflammation worse. Instead, wear loose, cotton clothes to avoid skin irritation. Also, avoid clothes that are made from wool or nylon.
3. Apply Witch Hazel
Liberally coat the affected area of your skin with witch hazel. A potent astringent and anti-inflammatory agent, witch hazel soothes irritated skin and reduces swelling. Alternatively, you can also try topically applying pastes made from medicinal herbs like sage leaf or fenugreek seed.5
4. Avoid Triggers
This one’s more of a preventive measure than a method of treatment. If you notice that your skin tends to breaks out into hives after consuming a particular food item or after exposure to pollen or animal dander, then those are the triggers you need to stay away from. If you are accidentally exposed to your allergen, seek immediate help.
To get rid of hives, you can also opt for anti-histamine over-the-counter drugs. But in nearly all cases, hives are rather harmless and resolve within a few days. However, if they persist for over a week, and if they’re not a result of an allergy, approach a doctor. Although it is rare for hives to appear because of serious medical condition like, the possibility cannot be ruled out completely.
|↑1||Hives (urticaria). Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and allergy.|
|↑2, ↑4||Hives (Urticaria). American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.|
|↑3||Hives (urticaria). Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and allergy.|
|↑5||Dawid-Pać, Renata. “Medicinal plants used in treatment of inflammatory skin diseases.” Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postȩpy Dermatologii I Alergologii 30, no. 3 (2013): 170.|