Urticaria, more commonly known as hives, is a condition characterized by raised, itchy, red welts on the skin. The welts can range from a few millimeters to several centimeters and often appear in groups. Hives may be accompanied by swelling of the surrounding skin. It is a relatively common condition and will usually resolve on its own without treatment within a few days to weeks. However, chronic hives last longer than six weeks and may indicate an underlying condition.
What Causes Urticaria?
Urticaria and hives are generally a symptom of an allergic reaction. This occurs when high levels of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals are released in the body. The release of these chemicals may be triggered for several reasons, including:
- Food allergies
- A reaction to an insect sting or bite
- Infections such as a cold
- An allergic reaction to certain medications
- Exposure to hot and cold temperatures
Children, women aged 30 to 60, and those with a history of allergies are more likely to develop urticaria. While the above triggers are the most common, it is also possible for urticaria to occur without a known trigger. Additionally, there are triggers that may make your symptoms worse, such as drinking alcohol and caffeine, as well as stress. If you are prone to hives, it is best to avoid these triggers.
3 Tips to Prevent Urticaria
Taking the following precautions may allow you to prevent hives or at least reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms. In addition to using the following preventative measures, talking to a dermatologist or allergist may be beneficial in creating a plan to manage your hives.
If you are able to identify the triggers that bring on your hives, taking steps to avoid them can be very helpful. When you experience an allergic reaction, try to take note of what you were doing or eating before the reaction so you may avoid it in the future. If a trigger is not obvious, keeping a diary of your hives and potential triggers may be helpful in identifying patterns. Not all allergy triggers will be avoidable, so be sure to have a plan in place for managing your symptoms regardless.
Wear Loose Clothing
Tight clothing may irritate the skin and make hives worse. If you are prone to hives, it is best to wear loose-fitting clothing made from soft fabrics. Scratchy or rough materials such as wool should be avoided. Smooth-textured cotton clothing is often the best option.
Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Too much sun exposure may make hives worse. When you are outdoors, be sure to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it every two hours. In addition to sunscreen, seeking shady areas and wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats may also help.
How to Ease the Symptoms of Urticaria
Breaking out in hives may be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. Finding ways to prevent them in the first place is always ideal, but when that is not possible, there are ways to manage your symptoms. Since hives may break out suddenly and without warning, it is always a good idea to have a few ways to ease your symptoms in mind. Some of the ways you may do this are by:
Use Anti-Itch Medication
Over-the-counter antihistamines may relieve the itchiness and swelling associated with hives. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package and only use the medication as directed. There are many antihistamines available, so if one does not work for you, it may be worth trying another. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you need help finding an antihistamine that works for you.
Apply a Cold Compress
Applying a cold compress to the affected area may soothe the skin, reduce swelling and prevent irritation and itchiness. You can make a cold compress by wrapping ice in a clean cloth or using a frozen gel pack wrapped in a towel. Keep the compress on the area for about 15 to 20 minutes and repeat as needed. Do not apply ice directly to the skin, as this may cause further irritation.
Apply Aloe Vera
Keeping the skin moisturized is essential when dealing with hives, as dry skin may worsen the condition. Aloe vera is a natural moisturizer that may soothe the skin. You can find aloe vera gel at most pharmacies or supermarkets. Apply the gel to the affected area as needed throughout the day. Avoid other moisturizers that may contain irritants, such as perfumes, dyes, or alcohol. If you want to use something other than aloe vera, try a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer.
Find Ways to Reduce Stress
High-stress levels may trigger hives or make them worse. If you find that you are breaking out in hives more often when you are under stress, finding ways to stay calm and relaxed may help. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation are all ways you may start reducing the stress in your life. If you are at risk for developing hives, take a few minutes out of the day to do something that relaxes you.
Consider a Clinical Research Study
If you have urticaria that does not respond to at-home treatment or over-the-counter medication, you may want to consider a clinical research study. These studies test new potential treatments in hopes of finding more effective ways to manage conditions like hives. If you are interested in participating in a clinical research study, visit the Olympian Clinical Research website to see if you qualify.
Contact Olympian Clinical Research
If you or someone you know is struggling with urticaria, there are potential treatment options available. Olympian Clinical Research conducts studies on a number of conditions, including urticaria. Our goal is to help those who are struggling to manage their conditions by testing new potential treatments and medications under the expert care of our team. To learn more about urticaria and other conditions we study, visit our website or contact us today.