Hives are triggered by stress and allergens, such as, food, pets, and drugs. Hives appear as raised red, itchy bumps of varying sizes and can affect different parts of the body. Biochemically, hives are triggered by an allergen causing massive release of histamines from mast cells. Treat immediately to avoid complications, the most serious of which are respiratory distress and anaphylactic shock. Symptoms of intense itching can cause skin infections from constant scratching.
Hydrocortisone can provide temporary relief of the itchiness that often accompanies the appearance of hives during an allergic attack. This medication is available as a gel, liquid, spray or as a topical cream or ointment that can be bought over the counter at a low strength of 0.5 percent or 1 percent or as a prescription medication with higher potency from a doctor for very severe episodes. Use the medication as directed on the package or by your health care provider, and always wash your hands thoroughly to avoid ingestion of the drug. Avoid contact with your eyes and mouth.
Hives are caused by massive release of histamine chemicals in the body from particular cells called mast cells. The release of histamines is stimulated by allergens that enters the body's system which triggers the body's immune defense system to react. Taking over-the-counter antihistamine medication, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can help alleviate the allergic symptoms and reduce itchiness from the hives. Diphenhydramine is a histamine blocker. The medication is available as over-the-counter oral tablets, topical cream, or spray from most drugstores. Diphenhydramine cream can be applied directly to the hives to help reduce the itchiness temporarily.
Compresses can help temporarily relieve the itchiness from the hives. Use cool compresses by soaking a large cotton cloth in a bowl of cool water. Add a few drops of fresh squeeze lemon juice to the water. This will act as a natural antiseptic and will help to reduce the potential of secondary skin infections from lesions caused by scratching the hives. Apply a medicated cream or calamine lotion to the affected area then cover with the cold compress. Keep the compress in contact with the skin for five to 10 minutes or until the itchy redness or heat from the affected area has subsided.
Effects of Herbs
Some herbal lotions and creams from plant sources can help to relive the itch associated with hives. The aloe vera plant is a common ingredient in topical lotion used to treat itching. The juice and pulp from the stem and leaves of the plant also can be extracted directly from the plant, along with the aloin resin, and used to relive the itch temporarily. Other herbs with natural antiinflammatory and antiseptic are ginkgo balboa, calendual and licorice root. These herbs can be bought from local herbal stores in prepared packs of pastes or plasters. Applying directly to the affected area can help to relieve the itchiness.
Colloidal oatmeal is from the plant Avena sativa. It contains natural oils, betaglucans and starch, which can help to change the pH of the skin to reduce the itch and inflammation. Soaking the affected area in colloidal oatmeal or corn starch can give temporary relief from the itchiness. If a large area of the body is affected, add several tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal to a bathtub full of tepid water before soaking. Bath treatments containing colloidal oatmeal are available widely.