An introduction to the treatment of hives
Hives can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant to experience, especially if you are a child or on holiday.
There are some very distressing symptoms associated with the condition, like wheals, inflammation or itching, which can make getting treatment a top priority.
Fortunately, there are a variety of different home, herbal and conventional remedies out there, aimed at tackling the nasty symptoms of hives.
It’s important to remember though, that hives isn’t always a topical condition and that it can have internal issues that may require your attention as well.
If you are worried about the side-effects associated with conventional medicines, then trying a home remedy might seem like a useful solution.
Fortunately, there are a variety of home treatments available to ease and relieve the unpleasant symptoms associated with hives, although it is important to consult a doctor if your symptoms persist and become chronic.
- Relax: Stress, as has been discussed, is extremely damaging when it comes to your hive symptoms. Not only does it increase the production of inflammatory chemicals like histamine, stress can disrupt your sleep pattern and upset your digestive system. This is why it is crucial to try and combat any emotional upset you feel during this time, and find ways of improving your mood. You don’t have to go all out; you can try taking simple steps either by indulging in a good book or enjoying a luxurious bath. Gentle exercise, such as yoga, tai chi or meditation, can support your psychological health and teach you proper breathing techniques, so that in the future you can take control of your own body and mind
- Good nutrition: Your diet is very important when considering your symptoms. The negative impact of chemicals like histamine has already been discussed at length, but what you may not realise is that certain food products can stimulate the production of these inflammatory agents. Refined sugar, processed fats, alcohol and caffeine – all of these can contribute to the release of histamine and impair the function of your digestive system, increasing the population of the H. Pylori bacteria. If you already have an pre-existing health condition, it is vital that you try and support these systems as much as possible by cutting out inflammatory foods and focusing on foods that are rich in essential anti-oxidants and vitamins, like vitamins C, E and B. These nutrients can be found in most fruit, green leafy vegetables, like spinach, oranges and sweet potatoes, or you could try blitzing up one of our smoothies to increase your daily intake! Whole-grains are a great source of B vitamins and can work to improve your digestion while herbs like ginger and garlic are renowned for their anti-histamine and anti-bacterial properties and supporting your circulatory system. Try to cut back on alcohol and, if you feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee, choose a caffeine-free alternative like Bambu
- Avoid irritants: If you are aware that you are susceptible to hives, then you should be trying to take preventative steps to avoid any potential irritants. These steps don’t have to be complicated and are more a matter of common sense than anything else. For example, wearing a pair of shorts and walking through a field full of stinging nettles is perhaps not a good idea. Wear loose clothing that can allow your skin to breathe but protect it from the elements. If you are allergic to pollen or certain types of foods, stay vigilant and try to avoid coming into contact with either stimulant. Don’t place yourself in a position where you are exposed to extreme temperatures, especially low humidity and UV radiation. Instead, pick a natural, organic sunscreen and try to be aware of your environment, especially if it contains biting insects or stinging plants.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making it an excellent solution for treating outbreaks of hives. It can relieve the swelling associated with the condition, and even help to support the immune system if taken internally. You can add this remedy topically to the affected area by diluting with water or you could even mix it with a little honey and water, and drink internally. If you are curious about this particular home treatment, you can find a range of apple cider vinegar products at Your Health Food Store
- Aloe vera: Famous for being used in the treatment of minor burns, aloe vera has earned its reputation as one of the leading topical remedies for skin conditions. It has natural anti-sceptic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is able to strengthen your skin cells, encouraging the healing process and easing any swelling or itchiness. You can apply aloe vera oil topically to your skin but you should always remember to dilute the formula first to avoid any irritation. Your Health Food Store stocks many different aloe vera based products that might worth your consideration if you plan on using this treatment
- Oatmeal: A seemingly unusual choice for treating your skin ailment, oatmeal works brilliantly at soothing itchiness and irritation, and can exfoliate your skin, removing the dead skin cells. Similarly to apple cider vinegar and aloe vera, oatmeal also has natural anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful at relieving inflammation and the associated redness and wheals. You can apply oatmeal directly to your hives after mixing with water to form a paste, or you could even add a couple of handfuls to your evening bath
- Nettle: In some cases, especially if your hives have been triggered by nettle stings, this might seem like a terrible option. However, nettles work surprisingly well at treating the symptoms of hives because of their anti-histamine qualities. This doesn’t mean you should try rubbing fresh stinging nettles against your hives – quite the opposite! – but in the form of a tea or tincture, nettles can be applied topically or taken internally. You can even take nettle supplements every day to increase your intake of the plant.
Herbal medicines are an excellent alternative to traditional medicines and normally do not incur the same side-effects as their conventional counterparts. They are also are aimed at treating your physical and psychological symptoms, in order to accelerate your recovery and minimalise your suffering.
- Neem cream: Neem extracts have been used in herbal medicine for centuries, often in the treatment of skin afflictions and as a method of repelling insects. Neem cream is particularly good at soothing skin irritation and itchiness and is made using extracts of neem leaves. You can apply this remedy directly to the irritated area. Neem cream can be used by adults but may not be suitable if you suffer from a nut allergy or are pregnant
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that must be absorbed from your food as the body cannot produce it naturally. This anti-oxidant is great for supporting the immune system and strengthening the skin cells by accelerating the production of collagen. Nature-C, is a chewable vitamin C supplement, made using organic extracts of vitamin C rich fruits and can be taken daily to increase your intake of this vital nutrient
- AvenaCalm: If taken consistently AvenaCalm can help you to cope better in demanding situations. When you suffer from a visible skin condition like hives, it can affect your self-esteem and confidence. AvenaCalm can ease anxiety and soothe apprehension, leaving you feeling more like your old self and better able to deal with your hive symptoms
- Dormeasan®: The physical and psychological symptoms of hives can often interrupt your natural sleep pattern, exaggerating any stressful emotions you might be experiencing and making you feel drowsy and lethargic the next day. Dormeasan® is a sleep remedy that works to restore a natural sleep pattern and allows your body to heal, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalised the next morning. Made from extracts of Valerian and Hops, Dormeasan is suitable for most adults, except for breastfeeding or pregnant women.
Hives is not usually considered to be a serious skin condition and in most cases, the symptoms will clear up on their own, without the need for prescribed medication. However, if your hive symptoms are persistent you should speak to your doctor.
There are a range of conventional medicines available to treat hives, but you should be aware of any potential side-effects so that you can reach a balanced and informed decision about what treatment is right for you.
- Anti-histamines: In most episodes of hives, anti-histamines are considered the go-to option if your symptoms are causing you too much discomfort. They are readily available over the counter in most pharmacies and work to ease swelling and reduce itchiness. However, anti-histamines can cause drowsiness and lethargy, so it is not advisable to take any if you plan on driving or operating any heavy machinery
- Steroid tablets: Steroid tablets are usually advised when over the counter anti-histamines do not appear to be working effectively. They can reduce the swelling and redness associated with hives but some forms of steroid based medication work by suppressing the immune system, making them unsuitable to take over a prolonged period of time. The side-effects can include, high blood pressure and nausea, and you should speak to your GP as soon as possible if you notice that these symptoms developing or your hives outbreak is worsening
- Omalizumab: A recent discovery, omalizumab is mostly used in the treatment of chronic hives and is taken in the form of an injection. The medicine works by releasing an antibody that affects your production of IgE, reducing inflammation and gradually diminishing your symptoms. The idea of taking an injection does not appeal to many hives sufferers and the medication can cause a number of side-effects, particularly as it is suppressing a key antibody in your immune system
- Sleeping pills: If itchiness and irritation are affecting your sleeping pattern, it is likely that your doctor might prescribe you some sleeping pills to help you drift off at night. Sleeping pills can help you to sleep, but they do not restore a natural sleep pattern and often leave you feeling tired and drowsy the next day, thus exaggerating your other symptoms and continuing a cycle of lethargy and sleeping pills.