How to Treat Hives?

Hives are an intensely itchy, discolored and sometimes lumpy rash that appears on the surface of the skin. Hives also known as urticaria are frequently linked with allergic reactions and can be triggered by stress, insect bites, exposure to sunlight, cold temperatures, infection, certain medications or some underlying medical conditions. Identifying the cause of the rash can prevent more hives from forming.

Hives normally fade within 24 hours and may not require medical treatment. However, if you experience dizziness, swelling in the throat or face and difficulty breathing, you must consult your doctor immediately. This article will enlighten you about the causes, types and remedies of hives.

Causes of Hives

Hives affect many people but are more likely to occur in women and children as compared to men. They occur when high levels of histamine and other chemical messengers are released into the skin. The high levels of histamine can cause blood vessels in some of the areas to open up and this causes fluid to leak from the affected area. The fluid in the tissues can cause swelling and itchiness like an allergic reaction.

Some of the common causes of hives are as follows −

  • An allergic reaction to an insect bite, food or a plant irritant

  • An infection like the flu or cold

  • Some medications

  • Certain preservatives and food additives

Alcohol, caffeine and stress can worsen the symptoms of hives and hence, one must take the necessary precautions when hives occur.

Types of Hives

Hives are a skin condition which may be the same color as the surrounding skin or may have a reddish hue. There are several types of hives, but their effects are mostly the same. Once we know the types of hives, we can easily understand the remedies.

Acute Urticaria

It is a short-lived type of hives wherein, rashes may last less than six weeks. Here, hives typically occur due to an allergic reaction to certain foods or medicines or due to infections and insect bites. Urticaria affects the upper layer of the skin.


It is the rapid swelling of the area beneath the skin and it may occur due to certain disorders. It is also possible that the person may not always experience swelling beneath the skin.

Acute Angioedema

This can occur with acute urticaria and is a severe allergic reaction. This is a serious health condition and can lead to anaphylactic shock

Chronic Urticaria and Chronic Angioedema

Both of them may occur from an underlying medical condition like thyroid disease, cancer or hepatitis. This skin condition doesn't last more than six weeks.

Physical Urticaria

This type of hives may be a result of heat exposure. Some of the common triggers of physical urticaria are extreme heat or cold, overexposure to the sun, excessive sweating and clothes constantly rubbing the skin. Here, the rash can spread beyond its original location. Sometimes, a person may experience dermatographism which is a trauma to the skin. Here, lesions or marks occur on the skin like small scratches and look like skin writing.

Home Remedies to Treat Hives

Hives can show up as a solo lesion or in clusters and mostly disappear within 24 hours. Here are some home remedies to soothe your itchy skin when you get hives.

  • Cold Compress − Use a cold compress and apply something cool to your skin to relieve irritation. You can apply a cool, damp cloth to the affected area and this may help reduce inflammation.

  • Bathing in an anti-itch solution − One or two handfuls of baking soda or oatmeal can help soothe skin and reduce irritation. You can also add witch hazel to the bath to prevent itching.

  • Aloe Vera − Aloe Vera has healing properties that may soothe your skin and reduce hives. However, if you are using it for the first time, do a skin test before applying Aloe Vera gel or pulp to the affected area.

  • Stay away from irritants − certain products like perfumes, fragranced soaps, moisturizers or skin creams can cause more itching when you have hives. You may opt for products which are suitable for sensitive skin. Additionally, avoid sitting in direct sunlight and wear loose and comfortable clothes and keep the temperature in your surroundings cool.

Medicines for Hives

If the home remedies aren't enough, certain prescribed medications can help relieve itching and irritation.


There are some over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines which may help relieve itching and discomfort. Antihistamines are prepared to reduce or block histamine chemical that is responsible for hives. Some of the most recommended antihistamines are as follows −

  • Loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Claritin)

  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): This is a short-acting allergy medication.

Antihistamines usually come in 12 or 24-hour formulas and are less likely to cause drowsiness except for diphenhydramine.

Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion can be directly applied to the skin and help relieve itching by cooling the skin. Ensure to mix the lotion before using it by shaking the container. Then, put some lotion on a cotton pad or cloth and apply the same directly to the hives. Let it dry for some time and you can use calamine lotion as necessary.

Prednisone (Deltasone)

If a person is experiencing severe or chronic hives, some prescribed medications may be necessary. This is a corticosteroid which can be taken orally. However, corticosteroids may have side effects if taken for an extended period.

Dapsone (Aczone)

It is an antibiotic which is available topically as an oral medicine. It may treat inflammation caused by hives or other skin conditions.

Leukotriene-receptor Antagonists

These medications are often used when steroid treatment and antihistamines have been unsuccessful. Some of the common side effects are headache, cough, low fever and upset stomach.

Omalizumab (Xolair)

If your hives have lasted for months or years, then the doctor may suggest omalizumab which can be injected under the skin. It may cause side effects like inner ear pain, dizziness, headache and cold.

When to See a Doctor?

If you have an outbreak of hives which has continued for a couple of weeks even after the home remedies, you must consult a doctor immediately. Dermatologist or an allergist can help you treat hives. Here are some of the alarming signs when you should consult a doctor.

  • If you have a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis. This condition is called angioedema and there occurs swelling in the face, genitals, lips, throat or tongue.

  • If you have abdominal pain or fever after hives

  • If you experience breathing difficulty

Diagnosis of Hives

When you visit a dermatologist or allergist, they may ask you to undergo a thorough physical examination where your hives would be reviewed in detail. The doctors will verify if the bumps are hives or any other skin condition. When the hives are confirmed, they will work on finding the cause and determine the trigger. The treatment is suggested according to the trigger.


Hives are a skin condition which may have allergic or non-allergic causes. They are often itchy, raised and discolored patches of skin. Home remedies and over-the-counter medications may help treat hives, but a person should immediately consult a doctor if some health complications occur after experiencing prolonged bouts of hives.