Management of Skin Hives or Urticaria

Hives formation is basically a skin reaction elicited against a stimuli, which may be intrinsic in the body or outside the body.

Presents as patches of raised skin surfaces, which are red and itchy. The patches may vary in shapes and sizes.

Usually, it’s perceived as an allergic reaction to something. However, it may be due to other reasons also.

Common Reasons Why You Get Hives?

  • Allergy against pollen, dust or any other pollutant in the air.
  • Food allergy. Some people are allergic to food belonging to cucumber family or to capsicum etc.
  • Changing weather/ temperatures
  • Bee sting
  • Insect bites, as in ant bites etc.
  • Certain medication, preservatives
  • In reaction to some soap or beauty product

Medically, hives are termed as urticaria.

What Is Angioedema?

Somethings, when you see hives on the skin surface, you may also see some swelling in the deeper layers of the skin. This swelling is called angioedema.

What Happens in the Skin When You Get Hives?

The major cause is the release of a chemical called histamine by the mast cells. There are certain cells in the deeper skin layers, called mast cells.

Whenever they perceive that there is some foreign invader or unwanted stimuli near the skin, they release histamine stored in them.

This histamine gush dilates blood vessels to leak out fluid form them. This produces swelling and redness.

The itchiness is also produced by the same chemical, and is a protective response of the body. It aims to remove the injurious stimuli by scratching it off.

When to Go to the ER?

Though most case of hives may be managed at home, rush to the ER if you have-

  • Breathing problem
  • Swelling over the whole of the body
  • High temperature
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Very intense Itch.

Are Hives Contagious?

Hives are not contagious.  They appear from inside as a reaction to some trigger. They same trigger may produce no reaction in another individual.

Hives do not spread by touching, using same towels, bed sheets or utensils.

However, the tendency to get hives may run in families.

Management

The first thing to do is to find the cause or trigger for hives. If you can identify it and avoid it, hives stay away.

However, many a times, the cause is difficult to trace.

Antihistamines are given. They block the action of histamine in the body and relieve symptoms.

Many such medicines are available over the counter. They include cetrizine, allegra etc.

You may need to take diphenhydramine or chlorpheneramine from the pharmacies.

If the reaction is too much, topical steroid creams may be used locally to relive swelling or itchiness at the site.

Sometimes, oral steroids need to be given to arrest the reaction. This is usually given in hospital set ups, after seeing a doctor.

If you develop angioedema, you need to see a doctor at the earliest.

Home Treatment

Medical treatment is essential and cannot be replaced by home treatment. The following steps may soothe you and give relief when you have hives.

  • Bathe yourself or the affected portion in cold water. This would constrict the blood vessels of the area and reduce reaction.
  • Put a thin paste of baking soda in water of the affected portion. This also works if you get hives due to an ant bite or even a bee sting.
  • Put vinegar over wasp bite.
  • Zinc calamine lotion may be used over the affected area to provide relief from pain and itchiness.
  • Stay relaxed. If you are a tensed or stressed up, you are more likely to get episodes of hives.
  • Staying mentally relaxed works for many. You may try yoga or meditation techniques for relaxation.

Avoid unnecessary brain stimulants, like tea or coffee.