How are hives treated?

Although hives can be very uncomfortable, they generally respond to treatment. Antihistamines can block the action of the chemical mediators that are responsible for hives. Certain steroids may also be effective in reducing hives. Additionally, you can reduce the discomfort associated with hives by avoiding hot or cold water or tight-fitting clothing.

Short-term control of hives and hive symptoms

Short-term treatment for hives includes antihistamines, which block the substances that cause the swelling and itching and can be very effective in reducing the discomfort of hives. Corticosteroids may also be used to reduce inflammation and discomfort. Short-term treatments include:

  • Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which block the histamines that cause swelling and itching. Certain antihistamines may cause drowsiness, and it is best to select a nondrowsy medication for infrequent hives.
  • Topical steroids, such as cortisone creams, which reduce inflammation and may be effective in reducing the discomfort associated with hives

Long-term control of hives and hive symptoms

Rarely, a person may have prolonged or frequent hives. In these cases, more powerful antihistamines are frequently prescribed. Certain antihistamines may cause drowsiness, and it is best to select a non-drowsy medication for infrequent hives.

If you have frequent or persistent hives, your health care professional may perform diagnostic tests for infections or autoimmune diseases that may be contributing to the formation of hives. Long-term control of hives may include:

  • Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which block the histamines that cause swelling and itching
  • Diagnosis and appropriate treatment of any underlying conditions that contribute to the formation of hives

Emergency treatment for severe hives

In rare cases, hives may be associated with difficulty breathing or swelling of the tongue. These are serious symptoms that could indicate a systemic allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Emergency treatment of these dangerous symptoms may include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Epinephrine

What you can do to improve your hives

In addition to reducing your exposure to situations or substances that trigger your hives, you can reduce symptoms of hives by:

  • Avoiding extreme cold
  • Avoiding extreme sun
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing

What are the potential complications of hives?

Hives may appear as a symptom of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening, body-wide allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis may be associated with swelling of the face, tongue or airway, which may make breathing difficult or impossible.

If you have a history of allergies, you should avoid common allergens, such as pollen or pet dander. You should also avoid any allergens to which you are sensitive, even if they have not caused severe symptoms in the past. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of anaphylaxis include:

  • Respiratory failure and respiratory arrest
  • Unconsciousness and coma
INTRODUCTION

What are hives?

Hives are raised welts that can appear anywhere on your skin and are usually itchy. The medical term for hives is urticaria. Hives are usually red or skin-colored, and they vary in size from a pea to a dinner plate. Hives are most often triggered by the release of histamines in the skin, which causes localized swelling, burning and itching. Hives can result from allergic reactions or may b... Read more about hivesintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of hives?

Symptoms of hives include itching and swelling of the skin, causing raised red or skin-colored welts. The welts may come and go quickly and may resolve within hours or remain in some form for weeks. They can change rapidly in both size and number. Hives may have any shape, though they usually have well-defined borders. If you press on a hive, it will turn white (blanch), and then regain its reddish color when released.... Read more about hivessymptoms

CAUSES

What causes hives?

Hives are often triggered by an allergy. An allergy causes the release of histamines, which dilate the blood vessels in your skin, thus increasing blood flow to the area. The increased blood flow causes the redness and swelling that appear as a hive on your skin. Additionally, histamines cause the itching that is often associated with hives.... Read more about hivescauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System