Arm with hives

Don’t Scratch That Itch! Understanding Hives and How to Find Relief

What Are Hives?

Hives are raised welts on the skin that are usually caused by an allergic reaction. Hives, also known by their scientific name as urticaria, are more frequently an acute or temporary reaction. However, they can also be chronic, ongoing cases.

They are usually red or pinkish in color and can be extremely itchy or even sting or hurt. Hives differ in size and appearance — they can be small and round or large and randomly shaped. They also most commonly appear in batches and can spread if not treated.

What Causes Hives?

Hives are typically caused by an allergic reaction to a medication, food, or an irritant in the environment. They can also be caused by exposure to certain animals like cats or dogs.

However, people can develop hives for reasons other than allergies. Some other common causes of hives include:

  • Stress.
  • Bug bites.
  • Infection or illness.
  • Exercise.
  • Sunlight.

But why does your body have this reaction to different elements? When your body has an allergic reaction, it begins to release histamines into your blood. Histamines are chemicals your body produces to defend itself against infection. In some people, histamines lead to swelling and itching.

Hives can appear either immediately or up to two hours after exposure. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the reaction. We recommend writing down when the hives appear and what you came in contact with, as well as scheduling an appointment with an allergist to prevent more severe reactions in the future.

How to Find Relief

While hives are most commonly not severe or harmful, we know they can be irritating and uncomfortable. A doctor can provide treatments to prevent the hives from recurring; however, there are at-home remedies to try to find immediate relief.

First and foremost, don’t scratch your itch! Hives can be extremely itchy, and the natural instinct would be to scratch the area that is bothering you. But scratching hives can make them more inflamed and cause them to spread.

Instead, try these tips to soothe your skin:

Use a Cold Compress

Apply a cold compress to the affected area. This could be a bag of frozen peas, an ice pack, or simply soaking a washcloth in cold water. The cool temperature will relieve some of the inflammation you are experiencing by numbing the area and soothing the skin.

Take a Lukewarm Bath

Hot water can be extremely irritating to the skin, but you can add various products to a bath to help relieve an itching sensation. Sprinkle in some baking soda and colloidal oatmeal for a soothing effect.

Colloidal oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties and forms a protective barrier on your skin, holding in moisture and easing inflammation. It is found in many moisturizers, shampoos, and cleansers that are beneficial for people with sensitive skin.

Wear Lightweight Clothing

It is best to avoid any additional triggers that may cause your hives to spread. Because heat makes itching worse, stay out of direct sunlight and wear lightweight, loose clothing to allow your skin to breathe. This will prevent further skin irritation.

Over-the-Counter Medication

Hives are best treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine or topical creams like hydrocortisone or calamine lotion. Antihistamine medications suppress the histamine that is released from the body, causing your itchy reaction. Topical treatments work on your skin’s cells to stop the histamine from being released. Do not apply topical creams to your hives if they are on your face or if your skin is broken or infected.

Natural Remedies

Natural products such as witch hazel or aloe vera are also highly effective and contain many healing properties. Both are known for relieving irritation and can be applied to the affected areas multiple times per day.

Talk To the Experts at Allergy Institute PC

If your symptoms worsen and become severe, or if you are experiencing chronic hives, schedule an appointment with our team at Allergy Institute PC. We will do a comprehensive evaluation to determine the cause of your hives as we look for environmental and food triggers, along with autoimmune causes.

Together, we will develop an individualized plan that best works for you. Contact our office or call (515) 619-5179 today.

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