There is a pretty decent chance that you or someone you know has suffered from hives at some point in your life. And while hives are not usually all that serious, you know that coming down with the hives causes all sorts of inconveniences and a general sense of being miserable. In doctor speak, hives are known as urticaria. The condition is marked by itchy, red welts on the skin. Here we have broken down everything you need to know about hives, how to treat hives, and what causes them, how to treat hives and when a case of the hives may warrant medical attention.
Hives Causes, How to Treat Hives, and More
Hives may seem to come and go with little rhyme or reason, but ultimately, hives are an immunological response. This means that your immune system is responding to what it perceives as an invader. However, the sheer number and commonality of allergens that can potentially cause hives are so great, many people often get them only to have them go away without ever determining what substance actually caused them—an incredibly frustrating experience!
Furthermore, although hives are caused by the release of histamine into the system, it is often through non-allergic mechanisms, meaning that random allergy testing is not really helpful in finding hive causes.
Examples of things that may cause a simple case of the hives include contact with certain plants, pet dander, fragranced lotions or detergents, chemicals in foods, certain medications or even sunlight. To try to pinpoint what may be behind your case of the hives, try to reflect back on your activity immediately preceding the formation of the hives to determine if you came in contact with or ingested something out of the ordinary. Then you will at least have an idea of your hives’ cause and, wherever possible, be able to avoid it in the future.
In the Phoenix area, springtime is the time of year when it seems we treat the most cases of the hives (along with other allergic reactions, injuries, etc.). Not only are people suffering from seasonal allergies, but they are also apt to come into contact with plant-based stimuli because they are more likely to be outdoors and taking advantage of our beautiful weather.
How to Treat Hives
Because hives are generally caused by the release of histamines into the system, antihistamines like Benadryl are among the first line of defense for relief from hives. Cool compresses and calamine lotion are also good options for managing the symptoms of hives.
Additionally, you can make your own oatmeal bath at home by running ½ cup to 1 cup of oatmeal through your blender or food processor until it is ground down into a fine powder. This will help ensure that it does not clog your drain. Pour this into a warm bath and soak for some relief. This is also great for other types of rashes and dry skin in general. If you would like to enhance your bath even further, add milk (cow’s, almond, etc.—they all have useful proteins for the skin) and your favorite essential oils—provided you already know that it does not irritate your skin. We are partial to lavender essential oils at bath time and for the skin.
Beyond coping with the itchiness of hives, the only real way to treat them at home is to wait. If, however, you have a serious case of the hives that warrants medical attention, your doctor will be armed with more suggestions for how to treat hives as well as medical grade treatment options like cortisone medications.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Hives
If someone has a severe allergy to something, hives will likely be among the first symptoms to present itself. However, in the case of severe allergies, other symptoms will likely occur as well, depending on the type of allergy. People allergic to certain foods or medications, for example, will likely find that in addition to hives, they also have swelling of the tongue, lips, face or throat (which may cause difficulty speaking or swallowing), wheezing, vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness or tightness in the chest. If you or a family member has hives coupled with other symptoms like those listed or others, be sure to seek out the advice of a medical professional immediately.
Furthermore, most hives dissipate within the course of a day or two, if not sooner. While hives can routinely last for weeks, if you finds yourself with hives that last for a long time—or if you or a loved one are getting hives frequently—you will also want to schedule an appointment with a health practitioner. In this case, it is not a serious as the severe allergic reaction scenario, but it is best not to put off the appointment either. Hives are too much of a hassle for anyone to have to deal with for an extended period of time and you will want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your hives are not a sign of something more serious. If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us!