Typically, hives are an acute problem for a person bothered by them, but they last only a short time and then fade away. This doesn’t mean that the hives problem itself will completely disappear, but it does mean that individual hives generally only last for several hours before subsiding. New hives can appear in other locations on the body before the problem entirely clears up.
Chronic hives need to be treated with something stronger than traditional allergy medications, and these are identifiable as those specific hives lasting longer than a day in the same spot on the body. The hives themselves are either reddish or pink in color, and they usually sting and cause considerable irritation to someone bothered by them.
Hives are triggered as part of the body’s response to something it encounters or something which is ingested, and which is considered by the immune system to be a threat, although this is usually a false indication. When an irritant is discovered by the immune system, it produces chemicals known as histamines, which are intended to act as a defense against the supposed threat. These histamines produce the swelling, itching, and stinging which makes hives so uncomfortable, and which strongly urge some kind of medical attention.
There are also times when hives can be caused by stress, or as a by-product of some other medical condition or illness. Some people are subject to developing hives as a result of intense sweating, exposure to extremes of temperature, wearing tight clothes, and even vigorous exercise. Since there are a number of potential triggers for hives, it is sometimes difficult to identify the real cause, so that a medical solution can be tailored to the cause.
Generally speaking however, the most common causes for hives stem from foods which have been recently eaten, pet dander, high pollen content in the air, dust mites, and reactions to other medications.
Treatment options for hives
Before an effective treatment can be found for hives, it must be determined that the spots on your skin really are hives and not something else. Your family doctor will be able to give you a test as an outpatient which will confirm or disprove that you actually have an outbreak of hives. Then the actual treatment will depend on the severity of your outbreak.
One of the most effective treatment options for hives are the class of drugs known as antihistamines, of which Benadryl is one type. Antihistamines are effective because they help to suppress the production of chemical histamines which cause the symptoms of hives in the first place. However, when taking antihistamines, it is generally necessary to take a larger dose than the one suggested on the label, because those dosages usually refer to sneezing attacks rather than the welts appearing on your skin. Also, it should be remembered that any antihistamine which is taken will not have an immediate effect, but will instead require up to half an hour before it becomes really effective.
Statistically, it has been found that Benadryl and many other medications are only effective for a certain segment of the population which is subject to hives, so if Benadryl doesn’t work for you personally, you should have a secondary option in mind. It may be difficult to get in to see a dermatologist, because they tend to have bookings several weeks out, so it’s to your advantage to have a Plan B, in case Benadryl proves less effective than you’d hoped. When you do take Benadryl, it’s best to take the medication just before bedtime, because many people become drowsy when taking Benadryl, and this can present problems during the daytime.
There are of course, other treatments for hives besides Benadryl. Some people prefer using medications which do not induce drowsiness, since that could be inconvenient for work, or dangerous for driving. One possibility is OxyHives, which has been specifically formulated to manage hives without causing any potential problems with sleepiness.
For the relief of the itching and stinging, it often helps to take a cool bath or shower, or to apply cold compresses to the affected areas. Adding uncooked oatmeal or baking soda has also been found effective by some patients for staving off the most severe itchiness and other symptoms. Using witch hazel or calamine lotion on areas where the hives are most prominent can help lessen itchiness, but since neither actually causes the hives to disappear, they will only reduce your discomfort up to a point.
For the entire time that you are bothered by hives, you should make a point of wearing light, loose-fitting garments which do not cling to the skin. Anything which comes in direct contact with your hives will increase the level of your discomfort, so you should avoid wearing anything that is relatively tight-fitting. Wool is a fabric which you should definitely cross off your list for the duration of your hives outbreak, because any wool clothing will only make your symptoms more pronounced and more irritating.
It’s worth mentioning anaphylaxis in this context, because hives can be one of the symptoms of this medical condition. Anaphylaxis is much more serious than a simple outbreak of hives though, and is actually one of a group of symptoms which may appear when a person is having a violent allergic reaction to some substance. This can be life-threatening, so if any of the following symptoms accompanies an outbreak of hives, you should seek medical attention immediately: