Home remedies and medications can help treat hives quickly and effectively. Examples include cold compresses, aloe vera, antihistamines, and more.

Hives are intensely itchy, discolored, raised areas of skin. They may occur anywhere on the body. Hives usually have a trigger, both allergic and non-allergic.

While the symptoms of hives can be very irritating, there are many ways to treat, soothe, and get rid of them.

In this article, we detail how to treat hives at home, medical options, and possible complications.

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People often use home remedies to treat hives and do not seek further medical attention or intervention. In fact, many cases of hives disappear naturally within minutes or hours of appearing. Most often, symptoms of hives will disappear within 24 hours, but in some cases, it may take a few days.

Effective home remedies to treat hives include:

  • Applying a cold compress: A person can apply a cool, damp cloth to the affected area. This can provide relief from itchiness and help reduce inflammation. A person can use a cold compress as often as necessary.
  • Bathing in an anti-itch solution: Oatmeal and baking soda baths can soothe skin and reduce irritation. Adding witch hazel to a bath is another effective home remedy.
  • Applying aloe vera: The healing properties of aloe vera may soothe and reduce hives. However, it is best to do a patch test before applying aloe vera to a wider area.
  • Avoiding irritants: This includes perfumes, fragranced soaps or moisturizers, and staying out of the sun. A person should also aim to maintain a comfortable temperature and wear loose, cotton clothing.

Some people with chronic hives have reported reduced symptoms when taking vitamin D supplements.

In more severe cases of hives, medical treatment may be preferable. Some over-the-counter options include:

People with more severe and persistent hives may need to see a dermatologist. These doctors specialize in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails.

Hives are a skin condition that usually results in a raised, itchy rash. There are several different types of hives, although the effects are mostly the same.

Hives may be the same color as the surrounding skin or may have a reddish hue. This discoloration may be less evident on darker skin tones.

Learn more about hives on black skin here.

Acute urticaria and acute angioedema

Acute urticaria is a short-lived type of hives. In this condition, rashes last less than 6 weeks and usually occur due to an adverse or allergic reaction to certain foods or medications. Urticaria only affects the upper layer of the skin, called the dermis.

Infections and insect bites can also cause this type of rash.

Angioedema is the rapid swelling of the area beneath the skin, known as the mucosa. A person with hives will not always experience this type of swelling. Angioedema can occur with many different disorders.

Acute angioedema can occur with acute urticaria and is essentially anaphylaxis of the subcutaneous tissues. It is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. It can lead to anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.

Learn more about anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock here.

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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Chronic urticaria and chronic angioedema

Chronic urticaria and chronic angioedema last for more than 6 weeks.

In these conditions, a person will typically experience daily, or almost daily, symptoms without an allergic, infectious, or drug-related cause.

Chronic urticaria and chronic angioedema more commonly result from underlying medical causes, such as thyroid disease, cancer, or hepatitis.

Hives affect around 20% of people at some point during their lifetime. They are more common in children and female adults than in male adults.

A hives outbreak happens when high levels of histamine and other chemical messengers release into the skin, causing a rash and other symptoms to surface.

The high levels of histamine cause blood vessels in the affected area to open up and start to leak. The resulting fluid in the tissues causes swelling and itchiness.

Different triggers may cause a person to have an outbreak of hives. Some common causes include:

  • an allergic reaction to food, an insect bite, or an animal
  • a reaction to a plant irritant, such as nettles
  • an infection, such as the flu or a cold
  • certain medications
  • preservatives and food additives

If hives develop, it is useful to identify the trigger. Factors that can worsen hives include:

Physical urticaria

The effects of heat exposure and overheating can cause a type of hives called physical urticaria.

Common triggers for physical urticaria include:

  • extreme heat or cold
  • overexposure to the sun
  • excessive sweating
  • clothes rubbing the skin

This rash rarely spreads beyond its original location.

Some people experience dermatographism, a type of physical urticaria. This condition occurs due to pressure on or trauma to the skin. Dermatographism typically involves pronounced lesions or marks that appear after seemingly minor skin abrasions, such as small scratches.

Some people refer to dermatographism as skin writing. The condition is most common in young adults, and symptoms typically resolve within an hour of presenting.

What is the difference between hives and a rash? Pictures and more

The severity of a hives can vary between individuals. Most symptoms are manageable at home, but medical attention may be necessary in some cases.

A person should see a doctor if:

  • symptoms last more than a few days
  • symptoms worsen over time
  • the rash is painful or leaves a bruise
  • symptoms interfere with daily life
  • they experience dizziness

A person will need immediate medication attention if they experience:

  • any swelling of the tongue, mouth, or throatSimilarly
  • difficulty breathing
  • tightness in their chest

A doctor will examine the rash and ask questions to determine the cause. Doctors may also use blood and allergy tests to rule out specific causes.

Hives are usually treatable and do not cause complications on their own. However, in more severe cases, angioedema may occur.

Angioedema is a buildup of fluid in layers of the skin that causes swelling and can affect the eyes, lips, hands, feet, and genitals. Doctors can prescribe medication to manage and reduce swelling.

Recurrent hives can negatively impact the quality of a person’s life, causing them to feel stressed or anxious and can even lead to depression. A person should always speak to a doctor if hives are affecting their quality of life.

Here are some questions people often ask about hives.

How do you treat hives naturally?

Ways of treating hives naturally include:

  • avoiding scratching
  • applying a cool compress
  • bathing in lukewarm water with colloidal oatmeal
  • wearing loose, cotton clothing
  • avoiding soaps with fragrances or strong chemicals
  • applying aloe vera

What is the fastest remedy for hives?

A cool compress may offer immediate relief from discomfort, but topical medicines may be more effective. Ask a pharmacist about over-the-counter options.

Hives are a skin condition that results in itchy, raised, patches of skin. There may also be discoloration.

Hive can result from allergic or non-allergic causes. Home remedies and medications can often reduce symptoms.

People with severe hives may have a risk of further complications. A person should seek medical advice if symptoms are severe, ongoing, or affect their quality of life.