Hives are an itchy, sometimes lumpy rash that appears on the surface of a person’s skin. Medications and home remedies can often effectively treat hives quickly.

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 people can treat hives at home, what doctors can do to help with symptoms, and potential complications of the condition.

Share on Pinterest
Jonathan Storey/Getty Images

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. It is advisable, however, to do a skin test before applying aloe vera to the entire affected area.
  • Avoiding irritants: This includes perfumes, fragranced soaps or moisturizers, and staying out of the sun. A person should also stay cool and wear loose, comfortable 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:

For more severe and persistent hives, a doctor may refer a person to a dermatologist. This is a doctor who specializes 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 very serious condition and can be life-threatening.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction and can lead to anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal condition.

Learn more about anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock here.

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 likely to occur in women and children than men.

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 a person breaks out in hives, it is important that they know what triggered the reaction. Certain things can make the symptoms of hives worse, including:

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.

In some instances, a person may experience dermatographism, a type of physical urticaria. This condition occurs due to pressure on or trauma to the skin. People with dermatographism will typically experience pronounced lesions or marks 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.

The severity of a hives outbreak can vary from person to person. While most people can manage their symptoms at home, it is advisable to seek medical attention 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

Any swelling of the tongue, mouth, or throat is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Similarly, if a person experiences difficulty breathing or feels a tightness in their chest, they should seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

A doctor will examine the rash and ask questions to try 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 the 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.

Hives are a skin condition that results in itchy, raised, and discolored, patches of skin.

The condition may have allergic or non-allergic causes. People experiencing hives may be able to reduce symptoms or treat them completely with home remedies and medications.

Hives can lead to further health complications and people should seek medical help if experiencing severe, or prolonged bouts of hives.