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    Home Remedies: Having chronic hives

a woman scratching her itchy skin rash, hives

Hives, also known as urticaria (ur-tih-KAR-e-uh), are reddened, itchy welts that may be triggered by exposure to certain foods, medications or other substances.  The welts vary in size and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course.

Chronic hives are a condition in which the welts last more than six weeks or recur over months or years. Chronic hives usually aren't life-threatening, but the condition can be very uncomfortable and interfere with sleep and daily activities. Often, the cause is not clear and in some cases, chronic hives are a sign of an underlying health problem, such as thyroid disease or lupus.

You can try various treatments to relieve your symptoms. For many people, antihistamine and anti-itch medications provide relief from chronic hives.

Chronic hives signs and symptoms include:

  • Batches of red or white welts (wheals), usually on the face, trunk, arms or legs.
  • Welts that vary in size, change shape, and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course.
  • Itching, which may be severe.
  • Swelling that causes pain or burning (angioedema), especially inside the throat and around the eyes, cheeks, lips, hands, feet and genitals.
  • A tendency for signs and symptoms to flare with triggers such as heat, exercise and stress.
  • A tendency for symptoms to recur frequently and unpredictably, sometimes for months or years.

These precautions may help prevent or soothe recurring skin reactions of chronic hives:

  • Wear loose, light clothing.
  • Avoid scratching or using harsh soaps.
  • Cool the affected area with a shower, fan, cool cloth or soothing lotion.
  • Keep a diary of when and where hives occur, what you were doing, what you were eating, and so on. This may help you and your doctor identify triggers.
  • Avoid known triggers, such as certain foods or additives, alcohol, pain relievers, heat, cold, exertion, and stress.

Related article: Mayo Clinic Q and A: Chronic Hives Come and Go With No Clear Pattern

Alternative medicine

More study is needed, but some evidence supports the following alternative medicine approaches for providing relief of symptoms:

  • Diet restrictions, such as eliminating yeast, food additives and other things that may cause the skin reaction (allergens)
  • Supplements, such as vitamins B-12, C and D, fish oil, and quercetin
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Acupuncture, sometimes with an herbal wash of burdock

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have:

  • Severe hives
  • Hives that don't respond to treatment
  • Hives that continue to appear for several days

Seek emergency care if you:

  • Feel dizzy
  • Have severe chest tightness or trouble breathing
  • Feel your tongue or throat swelling

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