If you've ever suffered from a case of poison ivy, or know someone who has, you should have a pretty good idea of what's involved for anybody who gets hit with hives. When it happens, an onslaught of hives typically causes your face and neck to break out in reddish or skin-colored welts. It eventually spreads to other parts of your body, with the unsightly hives leaving you alarmingly annoyed from the amount of itching.
What Are Hives?Also known in medical terms as ‘urticaria' (as well as weals, welts, or nettle rash, per medicalnewstoday.com), hives consist of raised-skin rashes that can last for days, even weeks. Per health.com, these rashes can last up to six weeks as old bumps fade away only to be replaced by new ones in some cases. Lots of itching; plenty of discomfort.
What Causes Hives?Interestingly enough, the mechanism giving rise (literally) to hives is an activation of your immune system in response to threats, per health.com. These can include a food allergy, a certain kind of medication, insect bites, pet dander, pollen, stress, a viral infection (usually found in children), or a physical stimulus such as heat, cold, sunlight, exercise or friction on your skin. In such instances, your body's immune system will kick into gear and battle back against whatever the trigger is with chemical warfare. All this is similar to what occurs when you suffer from seasonal allergies, whereby your body releases histamine, producing watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, etc. Per medicalnewstoday.com, a hives outbreak takes place when elevated levels of histamine and other chemical messengers are emitted into the skin, producing a rash and related symptoms These bolstered histamine levels result in the opening of blood vessels in the affected area, with leaking fluid in the tissues beneath the skin's surface resulting in swelling and the itching.
Types of HivesThe two main types of hives are acute hives and chronic hives. The former is the more common kind that usually last six weeks or less, brought on by temporary conditions such as a minor illness, allergic reactions, or stress, per simplyhealth.io. Chronic hives are a more severe variety, lasting longer than six weeks and with complicated underlying reasons that beg for prompt medical attention – even if you've already seen a physician to help you treat your acute version with prescription medications.
Home Remedies for Treating HivesShort of prescription medications, there is no known cure for hives. It's more a matter of waiting them out as they eventually fade away. Using various home remedies in the meantime to help you better tolerate the rampant itching and thus relieve some of the discomfort. Here are eight suggested home remedies for hives:
- Turmeric. Thanks to its chief ingredient curcumin, turmeric is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory, per simplyhealth.io, that can ward off the discomfort of hives on two fronts.
- Aloe vera. This plant-based gel-like remedy won't make your hives disappear, but it can be soothing, taking the edge of the itching.
- Oatmeal bath. Don't laugh. While oatmeal makes for a healthy breakfast, taking a lukewarm bath with oatmeal added to the water can help relieve the symptoms. Chalk that up to its anti-inflammatory properties as well as its provision of starch and beta-glucans that can help protect the skin, per simplyhealth.io.
- Coconut oil. Its antimicrobial properties makes it a good hives remedy by helping to sooth the dryness and itchiness associated with hives.
- Calamine lotion. Parents for decades have found calamine lotion useful and reliable in treating a variety of skin conditions. It works well with hives thanks mostly to its abundance of zinc oxide that can cool off the skin. Calamine lotion also acts as an antiseptic, treating infection and destroying germs, per simplyhealth.io.
- Cold compress. It can reduce the warmth and swelling of hives, although it might be best to skip it if you believe it was cold conditions that produced your hives in the first place.
- Benadryl (diphenhydramine). It works by blocking the release of histamine, per health.com, although it often causes drowsiness as well. Other non-sedating antihistamines that might help include Pharbedryl, Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec.
- Witch hazel. This ominous-sounding remedy is an herb that contains tannins able to relieve the irritation caused by hives, per healthline.com.