Hives 101: What Causes Hives and How to Get Rid of Them Fast!
Learn everything you need to know about getting rid of hives quickly and finally stop that itch.
Have you ever experienced red, raised and itchy bumps on your skin with no clear origin? If the answer is “yes,” then you have experienced hives at some point in your life.
Hives are super annoying and a bit unsettling, but as long as they’re not accompanied by swelling of the mouth or throat, they’re not life-threatening.
Still, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with, and if you’ve ever struggled with hives, you know how frustrating they can be and hard they can be to treat.
I’ve been there, done that and never want to experience it again! My hives were autoimmune related thanks to Lyme bacteria trashing my immune system. They were also chronic….as in off and on for years.
It took a massive diet and lifestyle change plug regular, active detoxing to avoid liver congestion and only then did I finally get relief from hives.
Fortunately, the vast majority of hives are acute in nature, lasting only a short time.
Whether chronic or acute, the only lasting way to get rid of hives for good is to identify the trigger and eliminate it, but that it can be easier said than done.
As they say though, knowledge is power so let’s dig into what causes hives, what they are and what you can do about them!
Before we can address how to treat hives, it helps to first understand what they are, their symptoms, causes and more.
The term “hives” refers to the red, itchy welts on the skin that sometimes appear as the result of an allergic reaction. It is medically known as urticaria, but you may also see them referred to as a nettle rash, wheals or welts.
Though they vary in size and shape, most hives usually appear as smooth, elevated areas of the skin with blanched centers while others are more solid, rough and uniform in color.
Hives can range from just a few millimeters to several inches in diameter. They are not contagious, yet fairly common as 20% of all people will at one point in their lives suffer from a hives breakout.
Interestingly enough, the condition is more common in women compared to men, but the most unusual aspect of hives is that they often change size and position. Hives will literally disappear in one area and reappear in another place.
Signs and symptoms of hives can be either acute (one-time thing or at least very rarely) or chronic (repetitive breakouts over a period of months or years).
Acute hives, apart from severe swelling, can usually be self-diagnosed at home as their symptoms are pretty obvious:
- Batches of red welts appearing anywhere on the body
- Severe itching which may prompt you to scratch like there’s no tomorrow (against your mother’s stern recommendation not to, of course)
- Possible painful swelling, commonly known as angioedema
The signs and symptoms of hives have a tendency to flare under stimulating triggers such as stress, exercise, heat and common food allergens.
In most cases, hives stem from an immediate hypersensitivity reaction. In the human body, part of the cells that mediate hypersensitive reactions are called mast cells. In urticaria, these mast cells become activated, causing them to release histamines.
Histamine functions by increasing the permeability of blood vessels so that white blood cells can migrate into affected areas of the skin and moderate immune defense mechanisms.
This increased permeability of blood vessels caused by histamines is what causes increased blood flow to the skin, which causes the telltale redness associated with hives. It’s a process that’s medically known as erythema.
These histamine reactions are also the culprit behind intense itching as well.
Causes of hives vary with the most common being exposure to an allergen that you’re sensitive to, even if you don’t know it. These most often include:
- Prescription drugs
- Certain types of food
- Pet dander
- Extreme temperature changes
- Insect venom
Though frustrating and annoying, hives are not contagious, and they usually resolve on their own without medical intervention.
As briefly mentioned before, hives can be classified as either acute or chronic. The difference is based on the trigger and length of time the condition takes before resolving. The vast majority of hives are categorized as being acute and lasting less than 24 hours. Acute hives are virtually always caused by allergic reactions similar to those listed above.
There are also a class of acute hives known as stress hives. Instead of being caused by a physical trigger, they are the result of an invisible one - stress. They are just what they sound like - a somewhat “allergic” reaction to stress and can only be resolved when stressful triggers are eliminated.
Chronic hives, on the other hand, are largely due to some sort of autoimmune reaction as many studies indicate. In fact, more than half of all chronic urticaria cases are attributed to the immune system attacking itself.
That was the case with mine.
My autoimmune issues started with a single Lyme-infected tick bite at just 6 years old. The Lyme bacteria started a chain reaction that ended in my immune system attacking itself, and I suffered with hives off and on for the following 2 decades.
Chronic hives are defined as lasting more than 6 weeks and are very common in those fighting conditions such as lupus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, hidden underlying infections and Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid.
Persistent hives are usually, but not always, related to an inherited deficiency of a protein called C1 esterase inhibitor. In such cases, hives symptoms mostly affect the lips, throat, eyelids, genitals and lower extremities.
The duration of hives depends on the trigger. Acute hives caused by allergic reactions last off and on no longer than 6 weeks. If you experience incessant outbreaks of hives on a near daily basis for more than 6 weeks, then it is considered a chronic case.
Most individual hives, however, do not last more than 24 hours. Some eruptions may only last for a few minutes to an hour. Ideally, hives resolve when the triggering factor is removed.
Chronic hives are much harder to get rid of as the immune system is intricately involved, and their causes can be difficult to pinpoint despite testing.
The simple answer to how to treat hives is to eliminate the trigger that caused them.
Foods such as eggs, nuts and shellfish commonly cause urticaria. Medications such as aspirin, penicillin and other antibiotics are also common triggers. There are several viral infections that cause hives, and those just have to run their course.
For allergic reaction hives, it only takes a change of diet, changing or removing medications, and treatment of infections to get rid of hives completely. Some preventive measures may also include staying away from allergens such as pollen, animal dander and dust, which may prove difficult but is possible.
That’s why it’s recommended to keep an anti-itch cream on hand to soothe the hives breakout. Some creams, like our Elixir Anti-Itch Cream, can even shorten the duration and severity of hive breakouts - naturally, effectively and without a prescription.
Just look at the results one of our customers enjoyed in just a few days of using Elixir:
Be sure to stick to anti-itch creams that are free from toxins and harmful chemicals. That way you’ll avoid just making the problem even worse. It’s ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how many products actually make the problems they’re trying to fix even worse.
Our hives cream uses a unique 16-in-1 formula made with organic ingredients, each proven to help heal your skin while providing instant itch relief.
Since chronic hives are often rooted in autoimmune issues, they can be difficult to treat. The best strategy in our opinion is to manage symptoms with a non-toxic anti-itch cream for symptomatic relief, while you work on removing autoimmune triggers.
Diet is perhaps the best place to start, and the AIP diet is ranked up there with the best if you believe your hives are autoimmune related. Diet wise, I can personally vouch for its effectiveness.
The idea is to eliminate all triggers (as much as possible) for 30 days, then slowly add in one thing at a time, keeping an eye out for any reactions.
Some cases of hives are treated with antihistamines since histamine is the major mediator of redness and itchiness in hives. In severe cases, systemic steroids may be used to manage symptoms, but give more natural solutions a try first. Steroids can turn into a dangerous road.
It’s important to note that whether you’re treating chronic hives or acute hives, most options do not cure the condition. They help relieve symptoms and improve your condition by preventing outbreaks while you work on identifying and removing their triggers.
While you’re in the process of finding and eliminating triggers, here are a few tips to help things go as smoothly and painlessly as possible during your hives treatment.
- Resist the temptation to scratch (Mom was right, it’ll only make things worse)
- Avoid tight clothes and hot showers during outbreaks
- Avoid body washes, detergents and shampoos with harsh chemicals
- Use cool baths and cool compresses to help manage the inflammation
You can also try an oatmeal bath. Oats are naturally high in salicylic acid, which is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. For this reason, oatmeal baths can significantly calm hives, relieve itchiness and reduce swelling.
Baking soda is another great home remedy for hives. To apply baking soda, mix a teaspoonful of baking soda with some water to form a paste. Rub the paste gently on the affected area of the skin and allow it to dry before you wash it off.
Although not life-threatening, urticaria can comprise your quality of life by causing severe itching and social embarrassment. Natural remedies and safe, effective anti-itch creams can provide the relief you need while you identify what caused your hives in the first place.
If you are unsure of the cause, you can contact your doctor to perform an allergy test. Also, keeping a food diary is extremely helpful in identifying food-related triggers. Whatever you do, just try not to scratch too much and remind yourself that it’s only temporary and life will probably be back to normal in a day or two!