When it comes to treating hives, there are many home remedies for hives that can help. Doctors say DO moisturize your skin, but skip the over-the-counter anti-itch creams (which can actually make the hives worse)
Most cases of acute urticaria are allergy-related. Chronic urticaria (hives lasting over six weeks or recurring over months or years) is believed to be caused by an autoimmune response. In both cases, the hives are caused by a substance or condition that the body reacts abnormally to.
The reaction may be triggered by any number of things, including foods, drugs, pollen, insect stings and bites, or latex.1 Even certain physical triggers—such as heat, cold, pressure, sun, exercise, and vibration—can set off an immune response that leads to the formation of hives.
Each hive usually lasts for 24 hours. However, you may get new ones as older ones fade. A minor case of hives can last for a few days. An acute case of hives may persist for about six weeks. If the skin breakout lasts longer than that, it might be a case of chronic hives.
Most cases of hives go away on their own, but you can use home remedies for hives to ease the sometimes uncomfortable symptoms.
Home Remedies for Hives
In most cases, home remedies are all you need to find relief. Here are a few ways to soothe your itchy skin:
Use A Cold Compress
Applying something cool to your skin can help relieve any irritation. To do this, grab a bag of frozen veggies or wrap a handful of ice in a towel and apply to the affected area for up to 10 minutes. Repeat as needed throughout the day.
Over-the-Counter Oral Antihistamines
Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Claritin (loratadine), and Zyrtec (cetirizine) are over-the-counter oral medications that can help reduce the uncomfortable itchiness and redness from hives.
Antihistamines work on histamine, which is released by mast cells — a certain type of immune system cell — in the presence of an allergen or an irritant.
Do Use OTC Antihistamines
A 24-hour over-the-counter antihistamine like Claritin, Zyrtec, or diphenhydramine (the generic form of Benadryl), can help relieve itching and discomfort, says Sarina Elmariah, MD, PhD, a board-certified dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Antihistamines are designed to reduce or block histamine, a chemical in your body that’s responsible for hives’ welt-like bumps and itching. If you break out in hives again after the medicine wears off, take it for three to five days and then stop to see if you get more hives. If so, you should see your doctor, Dr. Elmariah says — and you can continue taking the antihistamine until you do so or your doctor tells you otherwise.
“Taking medication at this point is more about preventing another [hives outbreak] versus treating the existing one,” says Adam Friedman, MD, a professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC.
But don’t reach for aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as they could make your hives worse, he says.
Apply A Cold Compress
The icy temperature of water or ice works wonders in calming aggravated skin. Simply dip a cloth or towel in chilled water and apply on portions of skin affected by hives.
Use An Oatmeal Scrub
The host of anti-inflammatory components in oatmeal makes it a superb moisturizing and soothing scrub for the skin. Take a shower every morning in lukewarm water and gently scrub the regions of skin with hives infections with an oatmeal soap bar or scrub with baking soda, to pacify inflamed skin.
Take a Cool Bath
Taking a comfortable, cold bath or shower can bring you relief from itching. If you have access to a bathtub, adding baking soda or oatmeal to your bath can also help relieve itchiness.
Wear Loose Clothing
Irritating and tight clothes can also cause hives. Opt to wear loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of cotton rather than wool, to reduce hive breakouts.
Certain chronic forms may require different medications, particularly if the trigger is physical rather than allergic.
Among the prescription drugs commonly used are antihistamines, corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and a monoclonal antibody specifically approved to treat chronic urticaria.
Clarinex (desloratadine) is an antihistamine similar to Claritin and Zyrtec, but it is only available by prescription.
If non-drowsy antihistamines fail to provide relief, your doctor may prescribe Vistaril (hydroxyzine pamoate) to be taken at bedtime. It is a stronger antihistamine used to treat a wide range of skin reactions including chronic urticaria, contact dermatitis, and histamine-related itch (pruritis).
Hydroxyzine is sedating for most patients and can lead to falls and confusion in the elderly. Less common side effects can include headache, stomach upset, and blurred vision.
If antihistamines fail to provide relief even at higher doses or cause intolerable side effects, your doctor may opt to treat you with corticosteroids to quickly bring down the swelling and itchiness.2
Corticosteroids are able to dampen the immune system as a whole. So whether the cause is allergic or autoimmune (both of which are mediated by the immune system), these drugs can “dial down” the symptoms when other drugs can’t.
Prednisone is most commonly prescribed for this and may be delivered either by injection or in pill form.
Leukotriene modifiers work by stopping the effects of or decreasing the production of leukotrienes, substances that can trigger the narrowing of air passages and promotes inflammation.
By tempering the latter effect, leukotriene modifiers have been noted to be useful in some cases of urticaria although the FDA has not labeled this class of medications to be used for urticaria.
Singulair (montelukast) is the most commonly used leukotriene modifier that is used off-label in the treatment of urticaria.
Common side effects of leukotriene modifiers include a headache, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and irritability.
Doxepin is a tricyclic antidepressant that also acts as a powerful antihistamine. When prescribed in a low dose, doxepin can be extremely effective in treating hives that are persistent and of unknown origin (referred to as chronic idiopathic urticaria).
Side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, dehydration, headache, fatigue, dizziness, and mood changes.
Doxepin is marketed under various brand names including Silenor, Zonalon, and Prudoxin.
Xolair (omalizumab) is an injectable drug originally prescribed for people with asthma who failed to respond to corticosteroids. More recently, it has been approved to treat chronic idiopathic urticaria if all other treatments have failed.
Xolair is a monoclonal antibody that blocks a protein, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), which plays a central role in allergies and certain types of urticaria and dermatitis. With that being said, scientists are not quite sure how Xolair works insofar as most chronic hives are not related to one particular IgE-mediated allergy.
Common side effects including injection site swelling and pain, cough, dizziness, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and chest tightness.
Be Patient and Don’t Irritate
Hives treatment may not be needed if hives are mild. If you wait a short time, they can disappear on their own without any intervention. If you want to do something to help them go away faster and to reduce itching and swelling, make sure that you do not take any hot baths or showers while you have hives. Also, avoid wearing any tight-fitting clothing because this can further irritate the area where you have hives. (14) This all applies to babies or toddlers with hives as well. Make sure you don’t bathe a child with hives in water that is too hot and keep their clothing loose-fitting and breathable.
The natural tannins found in the herb witch hazel can help relieve irritation. You may want to prepare your own witch hazel mixture to use as an astringent to maximize the tannins.
To do this:
- Add 5 to 10 gramsTrusted Source of witch hazel bark to 1 cup of water.
- Mash the bark up.
- Pour the mixture into a pot.
- Bring to boiling and remove from the heat.
- Strain the mixture.
- Let the mixture cool before application.
You can apply this to your skin like a mask a few times each day. Let it sit on the affected areas for about 20 minutes, and then rinse off.
Witch hazel can be purchased online or at your local health store.
Anti-Itch Creams and Lotions
You can use over-the-counter topical treatments like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, too.
However, some people can be sensitive to certain topical medications. Children may have a bad reaction to corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone cream. Topical treatment is also not recommended if the affected area is sore, infected, or features an open wound. Hives with these features may only worsen if you treat them with lotions or creams.
Do NOT Scratch
One of the most important steps in managing hives is resisting the urge to scratch that itch. Doing so could break open the hive, which could put you at risk of an infection, Friedman says. Ice therapy in the form of a cold compress or a bag of frozen peas is the best way to tamp down the itchiness.
Dab On Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel contains vast reserves of valuable antimicrobial compounds, besides being a natural hydrating agent. Applying a generous layer of aloe vera gel at night before bedtime effectively cures redness and irritation experienced in hives.
Wear Comfortable Clothing
In many cases, people with sensitive skin tend to get hives when wearing leather, wool or certain other materials that persistently rub against their skin. Identify which materials could be triggering the hives and make it a point to don breathable attire in cotton or other light, hypoallergenic materials.
Here are two simple DIY recipes with natural ingredients to cease persistent itching sensations in the skin and rectify inflamed areas with hives.
Colloidal Oatmeal Baths
If the itchiness and swelling are driving you mad, the fastest form of relief may be a cooling bath. It immediately reduces dilated blood vessels and tempers hyperactive nerve signals. One additive that may help further relieve localized inflammation is colloidal oatmeal.
While the current research is far from conclusive, some smaller studies have suggested that colloidal oatmeal—a finely milled oatmeal suspended in liquid, gel, or cream—can reduce the severity of itching while softening inflamed skin. It is widely available as a bath additive and a soothing lotion.4
For added relief, store your colloidal oatmeal lotion in the refrigerator.
Calm the Inflammation
To calm hives and help them vanish that much quicker, make sure you’re not using any products on your body that will only make the inflammation and itching worse. You don’t want to be using anything harsh on your body right now. This includes soaps and other body care products, as well as the detergent you use on your clothing. Opt for natural products free of unhealthy synthetic fragrances and other aggravating ingredients. Another simple way to calm hives is to take a cool bath or shower. You can also use a cool compress on the hives to help relieve any itching.
Antihistamines are the standard treatment for hives. These relieve and reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Often, antihistamines can make you drowsy, but you can ask your doctor or pharmacist for a non-drowsy variety.
For a severe case of hives, your allergist may prescribe you an oral corticosteroid drug, like prednisone. This will help reduce severe effects of hives, which include swelling, redness, and itchiness.
If antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medications do not help with your hives effectively, your doctor may prescribe immunosuppressants. These will help calm your overactive immune system that is sensitive to triggers.
Can stress cause hives? The answer is definitely “yes.” Hives and stress can go hand-in-hand. When you experience excessive short or long term stress, it takes a toll on body’s immune system. Since the stress is throwing off your immune system, your body responds by internally sending out histamine to fend off your current health problem, which in this case is stress. Histamine release doesn’t make stress go away, but it can cause hives to start popping up in various places. Basically, this is an allergic reaction to stress and your body is sending out visible signals (hives) to let you know that it’s time to chill out.
The very best way to get rid of stress hives is to remove as much stress from your life as possible. There are so many effective ways to reduce stress on a daily basis. Find what works best for you and make it a part of your routine. Exercise is always one of my stress boosters. Other great ideas for stress hives treatment, and hives treatment in general, include yoga, massage, journaling and prayer.
Making a paste of baking soda and water can help to calm hives and also prevent new ones from popping up. Baking soda is known as nahcolite, which is part of the natural mineral natron. Natron contains large amounts of sodium bicarbonate. It has been used since ancient times as a soother and cleanser. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with some cold water to create a paste and then rub it on the affected area. Let it dry completely before washing it off. You can do this a few times a day, if needed. Relief is typically immediate from this easy hives treatment.
Quercetin and evening primrose are two supplements for hives that will calm and get rid of your hives faster.Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory. Test tube studies have revealed that quercetin prevents immune cells from releasing histamines, which cause allergic reactions like hives. Other studies have also shown that quercetin, a natural medicine and phytochemical, is as effective at fighting allergies as some prescription medications, all with little to no side effects. Other supplement recommendations include vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D and fish oil.
Acupuncture is another option for natural hives treatment, especially for chronic hives. It is a holistic health technique that stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine practices. Trained practitioners stimulate specific points on the body by inserting thin needles into the skin. When it comes to hives, acupuncture aims to provide immediate relief from the swelling and itching. Acupuncture also tries to get to the root of the hives, including any underlying imbalances or triggers that are causing the hives. Some common acupuncture points for hives include Spleen 10 (SP 10) and Large Intestine 11 (LI 11).
One double-blind study placebo-controlled study treated 40 patients with chronic urticaria using either real acupuncture or “sham acupuncture” for three weeks. The subjects treated with real acupuncture experienced partial remissions of symptoms after three weeks. The effectiveness of the acupuncture treatments appeared to increase with each additional treatment.
Final Thoughts on Hives Treatment
Hives are an unpleasant inflammatory skin condition that 20 percent of the population will experience at some point in time. Thankfully, hives typically are not serious, and hives treatment is available. With some simple natural remedies for hives, you can calm a hives outbreak on yourself or your child quite quickly. Inexpensive, common household items like oatmeal, witch hazel and baking soda are really effective at calming the itching and redness that usually accompany hives.
If your child experiences hives, you should make sure you aren’t using any harsh body care products on his or her skin. You should also avoid hot baths and tight-fitting clothes. I hope that you won’t experience hives anytime soon, but if you do, a natural hives treatment will really come in handy.