5 Options for Treating Hives
Avoidance and Prevention
The simplest way to deal with hives is to avoid the irritating substance that caused them in the first place. People who are allergic to a food or suffer a recurring reaction to a detergent or skin care product should avoid the food or product in question. Some people develop hives as a result of thyroid problems; in this case, treating the thyroid problems is the key to treating the hives.
While mild cases of hives often disappear on their own, cases that last more than a few hours can typically be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines. Brands such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec can treat the hives without causing drowsiness. If these don't work, the next option is to try older antihistamines such as Benadryl. People who are prone to hives should keep these antihistamines on hand at home and work, and take them whenever an outbreak begins.
If hives become chronic or don't go away in a few days, doctors often prescribe prescription-level H2 receptor blockers such as Tagamet or Zantac. In severe cases, doctors may treat hives with oral corticosteroids such as prednisone on a short-term basis. Topical corticosteroid creams are typically not effective on hives.
When the immune system reaction that produces hives sets off a reaction throughout the entire body, it's called anaphylaxis. People with severe allergic reactions, especially to unexpected allergens such as insect stings, are often advised to keep an epinephrine kit on hand to ward off a bad reaction to a life-threatening attack on the immune system.
Applying calamine lotion or other anti-itch creams or lotions can be vital to stopping the spread of hives, since scratching the hives can start a chain reaction that creates even more hives. Wearing loose clothing to prevent scratching helps, as does taking cold showers or applying cool compresses to minimize the itching sensations.
Hives, also known by the medical name urticaria, are itchy swellings on the skin formed when the body releases histamines. Hives often form as an immune system response to an irritant of some kind. Hives can be triggered by heat, cold or stress, but are most commonly a reaction to an inhaled or ingested substance or an irritant that has touched the skin. Generally, hives can be treated at home, but when they are part of a full-body immune response to an allergen or an irritant, they can be just one symptom of a potentially dangerous reaction. Treatments for hives range from simple home remedies to lifesaving medical options.
People who develop hives frequently but don't have any idea what's causing them should keep records of everything they eat and anything that touches their skin to help narrow down the cause. People whose hives are accompanied by extreme swelling, especially in the head or throat, should seek emergency treatment. Immediate treatment is also called for if hives are accompanied by difficulty breathing, dizziness, coughing or a drop in blood pressure.