Hives

This is raised, itchy, red, welts on the skin which may take on many shapes and sizes.

What to look for

  • raised, whitish, welts of various sizes, surrounded by a red rash.

  • burning below the skin

Hives can be quite irritating as they are usually itchy and last from a few minutes to a few days. They are usually caused by allergies or emotional stress.

There is a condition known as angioedema in which hives develop beneath the skin. This illness can be life threatening and should be treated by your doctor immediately.

Causes

Some people’s bodies are highly sensitive to certain substances and their bodies will release a chemical called histamine to attack the alleged ‘bad’ substance. (See Allergies.) Some people react to a high histamine level by developing the rash we call hives. There are certain allergens that can provoke hives such as fish, and nuts; drugs such as penicillins and aspirin; and various food additives, emulsifiers, certain milk products, flavourings, or preservatives.

Extreme temperatures, stress, and pressure on the skin may induce an attack of hives, as can insect bites, infections such as strep throat in children and hepatitis B in adults.

Traditional Treatment

The cause of the hives must be identified as soon as possible. If you can pin point the cause of the hives you are then able to avoid it.

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To relieve itching, apply calamine lotion to the area.

A mild case of hives often disappears on its own after a few hours.

A longer-lasting case may respond to an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.

If your hives don't disappear in a few days, see a doctor.

Alternative/Natural Treatments

Alternative treatments may be able to assist in the relief of symptoms of hives.

Herbal Therapies - To find relief from itchy hives, apply a chickweed (Stellaria media) poultice or add a few teaspoons of the dried herb to your bathwater. A tincture or infusion of valerian (Valeriana officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), or peppermint (Mentha piperita) may help relieve hives resulting from stress; valerian should be taken in doses up to 10 ml to be effective. To find relief from itchy hives, apply a chickweed (Stellaria media) poultice or add a few teaspoons of the dried herb to your bathwater. A tincture or infusion of valerian (Valeriana officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), or peppermint (Mentha piperita) may help relieve hives resulting from stress; valerian should be taken in doses up to 10 ml to be effective.

Homoeopathy - If your hives sting and itch, try Urtica urens. If your hives sting and itch, try Urtica urens.

Apis, derived from the honeybee, is especially good when you have considerable redness and swelling. Either remedy is available over the counter.

Mind/Body Treatments - Stress can raise histamine levels in some people. There are several relaxation techniques available to assist in reducing your stress levels. Stress can raise histamine levels in some people. There are several relaxation techniques available to assist in reducing your stress levels.

Dietary Considerations

Avoid all suspect foods such as chocolate, milk, cheese, eggs, fish, wheat, artificial flavourings and food additives. You may need to undergo an elimination diet to pin point the exact food causing the problem. For a few days eat foods that you think will not make you break out, then gradually start eating suspect foods, keeping a careful record of how your body responds to each one.

Personal Care

One of the best remedies for hives is a soothing bath. If you are allergic to bee stings or other insect bites, ask your doctor about prescribing an emergency kit for you.

When to seek further professional advice

  • you develop hives accompanied by dry throat, cough, nausea, dizziness, difficult breathing after a bee or wasp sting.

  • you have recurring bouts of hives lasting a month or more

  • you develop hives after a blood transfusion.

  • your hives appear under the skin


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