Hives (Urticaria) is one of the most common skin conditions, characterized by red, swollen, itchy skin rashes that can appear anywhere on the body. Treatment for hives can include prescription or over-the-counter medications; in some cases, natural remedies for hives may provide some benefit.
Hives are generally triggered by allergic reactions to certain foods, medications, chemicals, or insect bites as well as other factors such as infections or stress. Individuals can generally recover from this condition within 24 hours, though in some cases, the recovery can take up to 48 hours.
Hives can be classified as either acute hives or chronic hives. Acute hives have a short duration, lasting less than six weeks. Chronic hives last longer than six weeks and are further classified as spontaneous, physical, and episodic. Spontaneous and episodic chronic hives can reoccur at least two times a week. Physical hives are generally linked to mechanical stimuli such as firm stroking of skin, cold, heat, pressure, vibration, or exposure to sunlight.
Angioedema can also occur with hives. Angioedema is a condition in which swelling occurs under the skin. Symptoms of angioedema generally involve swelling of eyelids or lips as well as pain and burning sensation. Angioedema can be fatal if the swelling occurs in the respiratory tract and needs to be treated as an emergency. Recovery from angioedema usually takes around 72 hours.
Hives occur due to mast cells (immune cells found in small blood vessels) releasing several mediators such as histamine. This leads to the dilation of the blood vessels in the affected areas and increased levels of blood flow that causes redness and swelling.
How are hives treated?
There are several remedies available to treat hives. Medications or natural remedies may be helpful for treating hives. Medications can be either obtained over the counter or prescribed by a doctor.
Patients with hives as a result of an allergic reaction, are recommended to avoid the ‘triggers’ (certain foods or medications).
Chronic hives can be linked to an underlying disease or infection. In these cases, patients are usually treated for their underlying medical condition.
Medications for treating hives
Hives can usually be treated with antihistamines. This type of drug helps relieve the symptoms of hives by preventing histamines from binding to the histamine (H1) receptors, located in the immune cells, smooth muscle cells of the respiratory tract, and blood vessels and vascular endothelial cells.
Commonly used oral antihistamines such as Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Reactine or Zyrtec) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be obtained over the counter or prescribed.
According to several clinical studies, second-generation antihistamines (Claritin) are preferred over first-generation antihistamines (Benadryl) for treating hives. This is because Claritin has less associated side effects, such as cognitive impairment and sedation as compared to other first-generation antihistamines.
Anti-itch topical medications such as calamine lotion can be used to relieve itching. This lotion can be applied over the affected areas of the skin, producing a soothing or cooling effect.
According to some studies, it is not recommended for patients with chronic hives to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin. This is because anti-inflammatory drugs can worsen the symptoms.
Natural Remedies for Hives
There are home remedies commonly used to relieve symptoms (itching, dry skin) associated with various skin conditions.
Wear Loose Clothing
Certain fabrics such as wool, or tight-fitting clothing can put pressure on the skin, triggering symptoms of hives such as itching. It is recommended that individuals wear loose clothes made of cotton or silk fabrics to avoid or relieve the symptoms.
Colloidal oatmeal and Baking Soda
Colloidal oatmeal can be used for managing symptoms associated with skin conditions. This natural remedy is generally made from grinding whole-grain oat or kernel into a powder. Treatment generally involves a cool bath in which the water is mixed in with the oatmeal. It can also be done by applying a paste or lotion over the affected area.
Colloidal oatmeal helps moisturize the skin. According to studies, the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties of colloidal oatmeal protect and soothe the skin by relieving itching, dryness, irritation, and inflammation.
Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is another natural remedy that can potentially relieve symptoms of skin conditions. Treatment generally involves adding baking soda in cool water for a bath.
A cool bath with baking soda or colloidal oatmeal can help relieve itching and moisturize the skin.
Aloe Vera, considered a widely used herbal medicine, may also be used in treating symptoms linked to various skin disorders. It is a cactus-like plant most commonly found in regions with hot and dry climates. Products made from aloe vera generally include gels or ointments and are commonly used in clinical applications.
According to studies, aloe vera possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, wound healing and pain-relieving properties. The studies suggest aloe vera can help soothe and moisturize the skin.
Further research is still needed to determine the effectiveness of aloe vera and other natural remedies for treating hives and other skin conditions. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist for information on the various treatment options available to manage your condition.
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