How To Soothe Hives
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 soothe hives immediately.
First and foremost, dont 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 and find relief from itchy hives:
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.
Avoid Anything That May Trigger a Reaction
Try to keep away from natural triggers such as pollen or pet dander. It is also a good idea to avoid contact with latex.
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
Does Scratching Make Hives Worse
Hives are caused by histamines released by specialized skin cells. Among many other effects, histamines stimulate itch nerves in the skin. When itching nerves start firing, the natural response is to scratch. However, scratching induces the skin to produce histamines. They get added to the histamine overload and, of course, set off the itch nerves all over again. As a result, hives can degenerate into an endless cycle of itching and scratching. Instead of scratching the itch, use a cold compress or an anti-itch cream. Calamine, capsaicin, menthol, or, if you need the powerful stuff, hydrocortisone or lidocaine can provide sufficient relief.
Common Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of hives can include:
- Swelling of the surface of the skin into red or skin-colored welts with clearly defined edges.
- Wheals are typically round or oval and can get bigger, spread, and join together to form larger areas of flat, raised skin.
- Wheals can also change shape, disappear, and reappear within minutes or hours.
- You know you have hives when you press the center of a wheal and it turns white. This is called blanching.
Hives can appear on any area of the body, especially on the trunk, thighs, upper arms and face.
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Causes Of Widespread Hives
- Viral Infection. The most common cause of hives all over the body is viral infections. Research has confirmed this. Other symptoms such as a fever, cough or diarrhea are also present. The hives may last 3 days. This is not an allergy.
- Bacterial Infection. Some bacterial infections can also cause hives. A common example is Strep. Hives are also seen with bladder infections.
- Drug Reaction. An example is a penicillin rash. Most rashes that start while taking an antibiotic are viral rashes. Allergy tests are normal 90% of the time. Only 10% turn out to be a drug allergy.
- Food Reaction. May be an allergy or a coincidence. If the food is a high risk one , consult an allergist. Hives from foods usually resolve in 6 hours. Hives from infections last for days. Only 3% of hives are due to a food.
- Bee Sting. Widespread hives after a sting may be part of a serious allergic reaction. Need to consult an allergist.
- Anaphylactic Reaction . The sudden onset of hives with trouble breathing or swallowing. This is a severe allergic reaction to an allergic food or drug. Most often begins within 30 minutes of swallowing the substance. Always within 2 hours of exposure.
- Unknown. Over 30% of the time, the cause of hives is not found.
What Can I Do To Help Prevent Hives From Recurring
If you know the cause of your hives, you should take steps to avoid the cause. You may need to take frequent, even daily, doses of antihistamine to prevent recurrences.
Developed by RelayHealth.Published by RelayHealth.This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.Â© 2018 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
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If You Had A Rash On The Arm Where You Got A Covid
If you had a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash where you got a COVID-19 shot, you should still get another shot at the scheduled date and time. This applies to second, additional, or booster shots. Your vaccination provider may recommend that you get your next COVID-19 vaccine in the opposite arm, if possible.
These rashes can start a few days to more than a week after your shot and are sometimes quite large. These rashes are also known as COVID arm. Tell your vaccination provider that you experienced a rash or COVID arm after your shot. Your vaccination provider may recommend that you get your next COVID-19 vaccine in the opposite arm if possible.
If the rash is itchy, you can take an antihistamine. If it is painful, you can take a pain medication like acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug .
Safeguards Are In Place
- Everyone who gets a COVID-19 vaccine should be monitored on site for at least 15 minutes after vaccination.
- You should be monitored for 30 minutes if:
- You have had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis due to any cause.
- You have had any type of immediate allergic reaction to a non-COVID-19 vaccine or injectable therapy.
- You had a severe allergic reaction to one type of COVID-19 vaccine and are now receiving another type of COVID-19 vaccine . This vaccination should only be done in a health clinic, medical facility, or doctors office.
- You had an immediate allergic reaction that was not severe from a previous dose of that type of COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccination should only be done in a health clinic, medical facility, or doctors office.
Vaccination providers should have appropriate personnel, medications, and equipmentsuch as epinephrine, antihistamines, blood pressure monitor, and timing devices to check your pulseat all COVID-19 vaccination provider sites.
If you experience a severe allergic reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination providers can provide care rapidly and call for emergency medical services. You should continue to be monitored in a medical facility for at least several hours.
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How Can I Prevent Hives And Swelling
Allergy tests can help your healthcare provider figure out which substances bring on hives and swelling. Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them. You may want to:
- Cut certain foods or liquids out of your diet.
- Reduce exposure to airborne allergens.
- Switch to detergents and soaps without scents or dyes.
- Avoid extreme changes in temperature.
- Relax and take a break when youre stressed or overworked.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
How K Health Can Help
Its important to know the difference between acute hives and a real medical emergency. Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app? Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Healths AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
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The Best Way To Prevent Hives Is To Avoid Triggers
The best prevention strategy is perhaps the most obvious: Avoid your triggers.
For example, if pressure on your skin gives you hives, skip the tight clothing and opt for looser-fitting clothes. If the sun is your trigger, avoid too much direct sun when you can and always wear sunscreen, which is a wise idea even if youve never gotten a hive in your life, Elmariah says.
If dermatographism, otherwise known as scratching the skin, is making you break out, avoiding wool, irritating chemicals and fragrances, and harsh soaps, and using emollients to hydrate your skin can certainly help, she adds.
Getting hives every time you exercise? Consider taking a long-acting antihistamine like cetirizine before your workout and exercising in an air-conditioned facility. Youll still sweat and you could get hives, but by surrounding yourself with cooler temperatures, youll reduce the symptoms, Elmariah says.
How Are They Diagnosed
Your doctor can diagnose hives by looking at the skin, asking questions, and doing a physical exam. Because the hives can fade by the time you see your doctor, it may help to take a picture of them. Blood tests usually are not needed unless the hives have been coming back regularly for more than six weeks. Other testing may be done if your doctor thinks a specific cause is likely.
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What Kind Of Medications Cause Hives
NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin as well as codeine and other pain relievers are the primary culprits in medicine-induced hives. The primary chemicals in NSAIDs are salicylates. Many foods contain salicylates, such as celery, vinegar, honey, apricots, olives, peppers, tomatoes, oranges, grapes, and many spices . These foods, too, can fire up hives in the same way as aspirin or ibuprofen.
How Are Hives And Swelling Diagnosed
Your doctor can diagnose hives and swelling by looking at your skin. Allergy tests can help identify whats triggering a reaction. Knowing the cause can help you avoid allergens, hives and swelling. Allergy tests include:
- Skin tests: During this test, healthcare providers test different allergens on your skin. If your skin turns red or swells, it means youre allergic to that substance. This type of allergy test is also called a skin prick or scratch test. Skin testing is not commonly done if hives are chronic in nature.
- Blood tests: A blood test checks for specific antibodies in your blood. Your body makes antibodies to fight off allergens. The process is part of your immune system but if your body makes too many, it can cause hives and swelling.
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What Are The Different Types Of Hives
Acute episodes of urticaria last for six weeks or less. Acute urticaria can be due to infections foods, medications, insect stings, blood transfusions and infections. The most common cause of hives is infections. Foods such as eggs, nuts and shellfish are common causes of urticaria. Medications such as aspirin and antibiotics also are common causes of hives. Infections causing hives include the common cold, and other viral infections. In most of these cases, when the reason for hives is removed or avoided, the hives resolve.
Chronic episodes of urticaria last more than six weeks. In most cases, the cause of chronic hives will not be identified despite testing. Half of the patients have antibodies that attack the mast cell . This triggers chemicals such as histamine to be released which causes the hives and itching. Even though hives are associated with other autoimmune conditions such as thyroid disease, treating the other condition doesnt cure the hives. Rarely, chronic urticaria has been associated with cancer. In most cases of chronic urticaria, the hives will gradually disappear over time.
Treatment Options And Prevention For Hives
If you experienced hives after starting a new medicine, eating a food that isn’t typically part of your diet, or being exposed to an animal or environment that is unusual for you, avoid future exposure to these possible triggers. To alleviate hive symptoms that you have not pinpointed the cause of, there are also several methods of treatment that may be effective, such as over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and lifestyle modifications.
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Lifestyle And Home Remedies
If you’re experiencing mild hives or angioedema, these tips may help relieve your symptoms:
- Avoid triggers. These can include foods, medications, pollen, pet dander, latex and insect stings. If you think a medication caused your rash, stop using it and contact your primary care provider. Some studies suggest that stress or fatigue can trigger hives.
- Use an anti-itch drug available without a prescription. A nonprescription oral antihistamine, such as loratadine , cetirizine or diphenhydramine , may help relieve itching. Consider whether you might prefer a type that doesn’t cause drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist about options.
- Apply cold. Covering the affected area with a cold washcloth or rubbing an ice cube over it for a few minutes can help soothe the skin and prevent scratching.
- Take a comfortably cool bath. Find relief from itching in a cool shower or bath. Some people may also benefit from bathing in cool water sprinkled with baking soda or oatmeal powder , but this isn’t a solution for long-term control of chronic itching.
- Wear loose, smooth-textured cotton clothing. Avoid wearing clothing that’s rough, tight, scratchy or made from wool.
- Protect your skin from the sun. Apply sunscreen liberally about a half hour before going outdoors. When outdoors, seek shade to help relieve discomfort.
Chronic Urticaria And Chronic Angioedema
Chronic urticaria and chronic angioedema last for more than 6 weeks .
In these conditions, a person will typically experience daily, or almost daily, symptoms without an allergic, infectious, or drug-related cause.
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What Can I Drink For Hives
Hives can be caused by food, particularly animal or plant proteins or foods high in salicylates, the chemical found in drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. No drink will help treat or prevent hives, but there certainly are drinks that may trigger hives in some people, such as orange juice, pineapple juice, tomato juice, coffee, and any berry juice.
How Do Dermatologists Treat Hives
When treating hives, the goals are to:
Control the itch
Prevent new hives
Avoid whats causing the hives
Your treatment plan will be tailored to your needs and may include one or more of the following:
To improve your outcome, your dermatologist may give you self-care tips to follow. To see what dermatologists frequently recommend, go to: Hives: Self-care.
Related AAD resources
Image 1: Used with permission of DermNet NZImage 2: Getty Images
ReferencesAntia C, Baquerizo K, et al. Urticaria: A comprehensive review: Epidemiology, diagnosis, and work-up. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018 79:599-614.
Antia C, Baquerizo K, et al. Urticaria: A comprehensive review: Treatment of chronic urticaria, special populations, and disease outcomes. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018 79:617-33.
Grattan CEH, Saini SS. Urticaria and angioedema. In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. . Mosby Elsevier, China, 2018:304-19.
Hide M, Takahagi S, et al. Urticaria and angioedema. In: Kang S, et al. Fitzpatricks Dermatology. McGraw Hill Education, United States of America, 2019:684-785.
Wong HK. Urticaria. In: Medscape Last updated 9/16/2020. Last accessed 8/1/2021.
Yosipovitch G and Kwatra SG. Chronic urticaria. In: Living with itch: A patients guide. The Johns Hopkins University Press. United States, 2013: 56-9.
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What To Eat To Help You Get Rid Of Hives Faster
Hives are a sign of an allergic reaction. Not only are they annoying and embarrassing, but they can last for hours or even days, depending on how severe your reaction is. If you break out in hives, you just want to get rid of them as fast as possible.
Video of the Day
Medications are the only thing that can quickly save the day, but eating foods that contain certain vitamins or taking these vitamins in supplement form may help. If you decide you want to try vitamin supplements, though, it’s important to check with your doctor first.
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Treatment Options For Chronic Hives
If you have chronic hives, your treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, if you have an autoimmune disease, that will need to be treated in order to prevent hives and other rashes. If you still experience hives, the provider might suggest an antihistamine or other medication to control symptoms.
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What Causes Hives
Hives result from immune cells. Mast cells and basophils are two types of immune cells that play important roles in fighting foreign substances , regulating blood flow to damaged tissue, and wound healing. These cells also release substances into the skin that cause blood vessels to dilate. Blood vessel dilation and white blood cell responses lead to swelling of the skin experienced with hives. These substances that are released include histamine, bradykinin, and kallikrein. Mast cell activation can be caused by:
- Immune-mediated activation: IgE antibodies bind to mast cells due to an allergy or autoimmune disorder.
- Non-immune mediated activation: Drugs may directly activate mast cells or act on other chemical signals that then lead to mast cell activation. Physical or emotional stress may also lead to the release of chemical signals that then activate mast cells.
How Is It Treated
The treatment your healthcare provider recommends will depend on how serious your hives are. He or she may suggest that you do one or more of the following to relieve the itching and reduce the swelling:
- Soak in a lukewarm bath or use cool compresses.
- Avoid heat or rubbing, which releases more histamines.
- Take antihistamine medicine as directed by the label or your provider to reduce your allergic response.
If the rash is severe or not responding to the above treatments, your provider may prescribe an oral steroid medicine to take for a few days.
Hives rarely cause emergencies. But sometimes they can cause throat swelling and trouble breathing. If your throat is swelling or you are having trouble breathing or are wheezing, call 911. Once you are getting medical care, you will be given a shot of epinephrine to stop the reaction. When the emergency symptoms have been treated, you will probably be given steroid medicine–for example, prednisone–to take for the next several days to prevent the reaction from happening again.
Once the hives have gone and you are feeling better, you should see your healthcare provider to talk about whether you need tests to determine what caused the hives. If you are able to determine the cause, the best prevention is avoiding the cause, if that’s possible. Whether you are able to learn the cause or not, if hives are a frequent problem, you may need to take antihistamines every day to prevent the hives.
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