Raised, itchy welts on the skin is known in the medical fields as urticaria but in layman’s terms; hives. Hives, while not contagious or fatal, can be extremely irritating and uncomfortable to live when with an outbreak occurs.
Hives can occur whenever the skin comes into contact with a substance that causes an allergic reaction or when something is ingested orally that the person has a previous allergy to. Outbreaks can last up to six weeks in more severe cases but are typically cleared up within a week when treated correctly. Correct treatment starts as soon the outbreak occurs because the longer the hives are left exposed to the elements, the itchier and more painful they become.
Some people find their hives are not itchy but instead are painful and burning but all outbreaks share the common symptoms of:
- Raised skin in the areas affected that is paler color than the rest of the skin
- Redness surrounding the hive
- Blister-like bubbles in the areas affected
Treatment for hives range from natural to medicinal and the one chosen depends on the person affected. In more severe cases of urticaria, where the hives show exposed skin and oozing fluids, it is always recommended a person visits a licensed medical professional or their local emergency department. This is especially true in cases that affected delicate areas such as the eyes, mouth, or genitals. Visiting a licensed professional can prevent infection from occurring and reduce the risk of scarring caused by vigorous scratching.
Natural treatment of hives
People are wary of medicinal treatment, especially in today’s society, when the list of side effects can match the list of symptoms. The matter of insurance or availability of a licensed doctor can also play into the want of natural treatments for ailments. In severe cases or obvious injury, it is always recommended to visit a licensed medical professional but mild to moderate cases of urticaria can be treated at home.
The following are tested, tried and true ways of naturally treating hives in the home:
- Anti-itch lotions – creams that contain menthol or Aloe-Vera can provide relief from itching and redness when used frequently through an outbreak of hives. Calamine lotion has been used for generations to relieve the skin of redness and swelling while providing relief from intense itchiness.
- Homemade remedies – baking soda paste or oatmeal baths can reduce the redness and itch of the skin when used properly. Using one part water to two parts baking soda, combine together to form a paste and apply liberally to the skin.
- Add oatmeal to a room-temperature bath to soothe irritated sections and reduce redness. Higher than room-temperature water can further redden the skin and cause the itchiness to intensify.
- Apply cold compresses to the affected area whenever needed. Use an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth or dampen a clean cloth and place in the freezer until cold. Cold compresses can also be purchased at a pharmacy or drug store in the first aid section and require a small amount of pressure to activate the cooling effect.
These methods can be used alone or in conjunction with others; provided they each bring relief and comfort to the affected area.
Medicinal treatment of hives
Intense cases of urticaria will need medical attention and medicinal treatments to subside. Never use a prescription that has been given to a friend or family member, as there could be interactions with other medications that a person isn’t aware of.
A medical professional will prescribe or recommend the following in cases of an urticaria outbreak:
- Orally ingesting antihistamines that are purchased at a local pharmacy – these tablets will bring itchiness and redness relief as they combat the raised levels of histamines in the skin from the allergen or irritant.
- An anti-itch cream – makers of allergy formulas have also designed their product as a cream or ointment for those who have trouble taking orally ingested tablets. These creams will soothe the area affected and provide itching relief while reducing redness.
- Corticosteroid tablets – this medication will counteract the high levels of histamines in the bloodstream by suppressing the immune system. It will also provide relief from itching and swelling due to anti-inflammation properties.
- Only use this method for the prescribed period of time, as prolonged usage can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, bladder issues, and insomnia.
- Hydrocortisone creams – a doctor might prescribe a hydrocortisone cream for more severe cases of urticaria which contain a topical steroid. These creams will provide fast and effective relief from itching, redness and swelling but should only be used for the recommended time period. Always use thin layers of the cream and do not exceed the amount of usage in a daily period.
- Prolonged usage of hydrocortisone creams have been linked to thinning of the skin and elevated blood pressure.
- Antibiotic tablets – severe cases of urticaria will benefit from a schedule of antibiotic tablets that are ingested orally. Generally, this medication is only prescribed when the hives are broken open, showing exposed skin and oozing fluid (blood and/or pus) as the risk of infection is higher.
Experiencing an outbreak of hives is never easy, regardless of the intensity of the case but there are ways to combat the symptoms and regain a sense of comfort. Using a combination of medicinal and natural treatments during cases of urticaria have been clinically proven to be successful but numerous subjects expressed relief through natural means alone.
The choice is up to the person affected on how they treat their outbreak of hives but it is strongly recommended and encouraged that a visit to a licensed medical professional (emergency department at the local hospital or family doctor) when the hives are open and exposed with fluid oozing from the site.
An allergy test administered by a family doctor can also help a person prevent an outbreak of urticaria by making them aware of potential triggers so they can avoid them at ease. Always practice self-awareness and use protective clothing when possible. For example, wear long sleeves and pants when going for a hike in the woods and use rubber gloves when handling chemical cleaning solutions. People can also wash their bedding and personal clothing in hypoallergenic detergent while using face and/or skin products that don’t contain high amounts of dyes or fragrances.