Hives, also called urticaria, can appear as red or skin-colored bumps and are estimated to affect about 20% of people at some point in their lifetimes.
Though hives are not usually cause for serious concern, in some people, they can cause significant discomfort, and for other people, they can continue for months or years.
In many cases, hives clear up within just a few hours after they appear. Some people can experience just one flare-up of hives in their lifetime, while others may experience many flare-ups.
People who get hives daily or almost every day for six weeks or longer are considered to have chronic hives, or chronic urticaria.
Otherwise, there are several home remedies that may help to relieve your hives.
In this article, I will explain how to avoid triggers, as well as some common at-home treatments. I will also go over when to see a healthcare provider for your hives.
Because there are so many possible causes of hives, identifying the trigger of your hives can be difficult.
In some cases, the trigger is clear (for example, if you eat a food that you know you’re allergic to, like peanuts or shellfish).
Otherwise, you may need to work with your provider to help identify possible triggers of your hives.
Common triggers of hives include:
- Foods, including:
- Peanuts and other nuts
- Foods with additives, colorings, or preservatives
- Insect bites or insect venom
- Infections (the most common cause of hives in children), including:
- Adrenaline released
- Changes in temperature (especially exposure to cold water, outdoor cold temperatures, or air conditioning)
In order to identify your triggers, your provider may recommend keeping a diary of the foods you eat, the medications you take, the clothes you wear, and other daily factors.
In some cases, your provider may perform a skin and challenge test to determine the triggers of your hives.
Once identified, avoiding your triggers will help to prevent hives from developing.
Take an Oral Antihistamine
Oral antihistamines that are available over-the-counter (OTC) can help to relieve itchy skin caused by hives. Prescription antihistamines are also available, but they are usually prescribed for the treatment of chronic hives.
Antihistamines work by blocking the effect of histamine, a chemical in the skin that can cause hives.
Unfortunately, many antihistamines can sometimes make you feel drowsy, but there are also non-drowsy options available in most cases.
Depending on your symptoms, your dermatologist or allergist may recommend taking a combination of two or three antihistamines to treat your hives.
Apply a Cool Compress
Applying a cold compress, washcloth, or ice pack to your skin several times a day can help to relieve your discomfort and alleviate your hives.
However, if cold is a trigger for your hives, don’t use this treatment option.
Use Calamine Lotion
Calamine lotion is also available OTC and can help to relieve itching caused by hives.
Try a Colloidal Oatmeal Bath
Taking a lukewarm bath with colloidal oatmeal can help to relieve dry, itchy, or rashy skin caused by hives.
Switch to Hypoallergenic Products
Switching to hypoallergenic cleansers, detergents, and soaps may also help to alleviate your hives and prevent them from developing.
Choosing products that are water-based, fragrance-free, and designed for sensitive skin may also help.
Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing
Tight-fitting clothing can worsen hive symptoms.
If you are experiencing a flare-up, wearing loose-fitting and breathable clothing can help prevent this from happening.
And if your hives are triggered by tactile pressure, wearing loose-fitting clothes can alleviate your symptoms.
Apply Aloe Vera
The gel from the aloe vera plant can provide relief for many skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, burns, frostbite, and skin damage as a result of radiation treatment.
Though there isn’t evidence to suggest that it will treat hives specifically, it can help to relieve the itching caused by hives.
Use a Gentle, Scent-Free Moisturizer Daily
Using a gentle, scent-free moisturizer several times a day can help to prevent your skin from drying out, which can also help to reduce itchy skin caused by hives.
Moisturizing daily with a moisturizer designed for sensitive skin can also be especially helpful in managing symptoms for those with chronic hives.
Avoid Wearing Textured Fabrics
Some textured fabric can irritate skin, which can trigger hives in some people.
If textured fabrics trigger your hives, avoid wearing them.
Chronic hives can be triggered by an increase in body temperature brought on by intense exercise, excessive sweating, hot showers, and/or anxiety.
Finding ways to stay cool throughout the day by wearing breathable clothing and using fans when necessary may help to prevent hives from developing.
Rubbing or scratching can trigger hives and make them worse.
Whenever possible, avoiding scratching will help prevent your hives from getting worse.
If avoiding scratching seems impossible, try taking more frequent baths, which may help to reduce itching and scratching.
When To See a Healthcare Provider
In many cases, hives are not serious and can be managed at home.
But if your hives are severe and/or continue for several weeks, reach out to your provider or dermatologist for help.
Additional symptoms that warrant more immediate medical attention are:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Swelling in the mouth or throat
- Racing heart
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
10 Ways to Get Relief From Chronic Hives. (n.d.).
Acute and Chronic Urticaria: Evaluation and Treatment. (2017).
Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin. (2015).
Hives: Diagnosis and Treatment. (2021).
Plants used to treat skin diseases. (2014).