Hives are raised, swollen welts that occur when blood plasma leaks into the skin. Also known as urticaria, they can be as small as a pea or as large as a dinner plate. Generally hives only last a few days, but many times blood plasma continues to leak causing continuous outbreaks. Often times hives will cause the person afflict to itch.
The causes of hives vary from person to person. In many cases, hives is caused by an allergic reaction. This could include an allergic reaction to foods, medication, detergents, soaps, and even vitamin supplements. Extreme heat or cold can also cause hives in certain people. Sweating, fever, and even stress are other common culprits. To put it simply, it can be anything that causes cells in your body to release histamine.
Luckily, there are ways to ease the discomfort of hives. People with chronic outbreaks are advised to seek the advice of their physician. If you suffer from chronic hives, your physician may want to prescribe a stronger medication such as prednisone, an oral steroid.
The remedy most recommended is to take an antihistamine. Over-the-counter oral Benadryl is the best choice, but you can use a generic brand containing diphenhydramine. Be warned that these medications are known to cause drowsiness, so it is best to use them at night.
Using a topical cortisone may help in the treatment of hives. Be sure the over-the-counter cortisone contains at least one percent cortisone and follow the directions on the package.
Do Not Scratch
Scratching may feel good to begin with but it can cause the area to become further inflamed. Don't be surprised if more hives form due to the temporarily relief of scratching. Another risk to scratching is it can easily tear the skin allowing infection to set in.
Beware of Anti-Itch Medication
Although tempting, applying anti-itch medication will not help your affliction. In fact, you may be worse off than before you applied the ointment. Hives may worsen with the use of over-the-counter anti-itch medication therefore making you more miserable.
Put the Itch on Ice
To relieve itching, pull out the ice. You can use an ice pack to the skin for five minutes. This can be repeated three to four times a day. If you don't have an ice pack, simply wrap some ice cubes in a thin towel for an instant ice pack.
Protect the Area
Many times people with hives will scratch unknowingly, especially at night in a half-sleep state. Wearing gloves at night will help prevent damage that could cause infection. If you don't wish to walk around during the day wearing gloves, you could wrap an elastic bandage loosely around the area affected. The point is not being able to let your fingernails do any damage if you instinctually start to scratch.
Take a Bath
To help bring relief to the discomfort of hives, try taking a bath. Baking soda soaks or oatmeal baths can work wonders. If you use baking soda, you can put half a box in your bathwater. If you prefer the oatmeal method, simply add one cup of oatmeal to your bath water.
Using a milk compress also helps relieve the discomfort. Simply wet a cloth with cool milk and lay it on the area that is affected. Avoid using ice-cold milk because it can freeze the skin. Apply the cool milk compress for approximately fifteen minutes each time.
Eliminating stress is always easier said than done. Keep in mind that even with hives caused by an allergic reaction, stress can make them much worse. Although the best advice is to get plenty of rest, sometimes this may not be possible. Try taking some time to relax through meditation, yoga, or listening to music. The point is to not let the stress around you affect you. Simply take a deep breath and stay calm.
Preventing hives is quite the daunting task when doctors are only able to identify the cause in only 20 to 30 percent of their patients. Keep in mind that hives will develop approximately thirty minutes after an allergic reaction or irritation has occurred. Once you have narrowed down the culprit behind the affliction, try to avoid it the best you can.
If you tend to break out in hives every time you wear tight clothing, it is time to loosen up a bit. Hives are common around the waistline. If you are susceptible to hives and wear hats, you may have to give up that head accessory. Many women suffer from hives when their bra fits too snug. The point is to wear loose clothing, allowing your skin to breathe better.
When to Call a Doctor
In most cases, hives can be treated at home without the aid of a physician and disappear in a few days. However, some cases aren't as simple. Immediate medical attention is required if the person afflicted feels nauseated or dizzy, has trouble breathing, runs a fever, or swelling of the face and throat occurs. This could mean a more serious allergic reaction has occurred, thus becoming a medical emergency.
Sometimes hives can be associated with a variety of diseases. Some of these include thyroid disease, lupus, hepatitis, and some cancers. If hives last for more than four weeks, it is time to seek the advice of your physician. This could be an early detection warning.
The key to hives is to acknowledge the triggers that bring them on so you can prevent outbreaks and how to properly treat the outbreaks when they occur. It is also understanding when hives can be a simple fix to a medical emergency. When in doubt, always consult your physician.
© 2014 Linda Sarhan
Linda Sarhan (author) from Lexington KY USA on August 11, 2014:
Judith C Evans from Boise, ID on August 11, 2014:
Great tips on treating hives. Voted up and useful...sharing, too!