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Home Remedies for Hives

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Strawberries contain a chemical that can cause body cells to release histamine, which helps form hives.

Just about anything can make you break out in hives: Foods such as peanuts or strawberries, drugs such as penicillin or aspirin, vitamin supplements, heat, cold, sunlight, exercise, fever, stress, and even scratching or rubbing the skin are among some of the possibilities.

Some substances actually cause an allergic reaction that results in hives, while others have absolutely nothing at all to do with allergies. Strawberries, for example, contain a chemical that can cause cells in your body to release histamine, a chemical also produced in allergies, which allows blood plasma to leak into the skin and form the hives. In this article, we'll scratch the surface and talk about methods to ease and prevent hives. 

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Sometimes only a tiny amount of the culprit is needed to set off a reaction. For example, you may have a sensitivity to seafood but break out after eating a steak -- simply because the steak was cooked in a pan that had earlier been used to fry fish.

Don't confuse hives with other skin eruptions. Hives (or urticaria, as the doctors call them) occur when blood plasma leaks into the skin, causing "wheals," or swollen areas. They can be as small as a pencil eraser or as large as a dinner plate, and they usually last only a few hours. But new wheals may form continuously. And as they form, they often itch.

An attack of hives generally lasts a short time, often just a few days. Some people, however, may be plagued with recurrent outbreaks. They may want to do some detective work to find the cause. And some people have chronic hives -- hives that can persist for years.

Those Annoying Allergens

Because hives are an allergic reaction, your best bet in preventing future flare-ups is finding the source of the problem. You'll need to do a little detective work to figure out what caused your itchy bumps. But if you can't put your finger on the culprit, you're not alone: About 50 percent of the time the trigger is undetermined. To help your investigation along, here's a look at the primary causes of hives. Perhaps you'll be lucky and discover the source of your itchy bumps below:

Foods. Certain foods are more likely to cause a heaping helping of hives. Strawberries are a problem for many people because they promote the production of histamine in the body. Other well-known hive producers are nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, fresh berries, and milk. If you're going to have an itchy reaction to food, it will probably happen within 30 minutes of eating it.

Food additives. Food colorings, flavorings, preservatives, and emulsifiers or stabilizers in some foods can cause a hive outbreak. If you think food additives might be the reason your skin's so red, look for ingredients such as salicylates, sulfites, and polysorbate on the label of any processed foods you've eaten.

Medications. Penicillin and aspirin are the two most common drug offenders. Penicillin and other antibiotics are the number one cause of drug-related hives.

Heat. Getting too hot by spending too much time outside on a summer day or by exercising are two causes of heat-induced hives. Sometimes known as "prickly heat," these heat-related hives calm down as your body temperature returns to normal.

Cold. Sticking your arm in ice cold water may cause cold-induced hives. These hives happen when you're exposed to cold objects or water, or even when you step outside on a cold, blustery day. Like heat-related hives, your oversize chill bumps will disappear once your body temperature normalizes.

Insect bites or stings. Components of insect venom are allergenic. Some people have a systemic (bodywide) reaction to these components that produces hives.

Infections. Bacterial, viral, and yeast infections can cause an outbreak of hives. Fever is also related to hive production.

Everyday objects. Sometimes hives simply happen from pressure on the skin; from contact with everyday objects such as furniture, towels, watch bands, or bedsheets; or from wearing clothing that's too tight.

Stress. Many people find that stress triggers an episode of hives.

Diseases. Hives can be a symptom of thyroid disease, hepatitis, lupus, and even some cancers. That's why you shouldn't ignore a lingering case of the hives.

What Are Your Chances of Bumping Into Hives?

If you've never had a run-in with the itchy inflammation, you've got a 20 percent chance that you'll end up with it at sometime in your life. Young adults are most likely to get hives. Children and adults are at the same risk for getting the itchy red patches, but from different sources. Kids seem to get hives from food allergies or infections, while adults tend to break out in hives in reaction to a medication.

Whether or not you can uncover the source of your hives, there are some items in your kitchen that can help relieve your symptoms while you're investigating. In the next section, we'll review various home remedies to bring you some much-needed relief if you are experiencing irritating hives.

To learn more about avoiding allergens and dealing with allergic reactions, visit the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

You know you're not supposed to scratch that itch, but what can you do about hives? Here are some tips regarding home remedies:

Take an antihistamine. The most recommended remedy is over-the-counter (OTC) Benadryl (available generically as diphenhydramine). But be forewarned: It may cause drowsiness. However, since hives tend to be worse at night, a medication that makes you sleepy may help you ignore the itching. For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics, click here.

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Try to ferret out the cause. But don't get frustrated, since doctors are only able to identify a specific cause in 20 to 30 percent of patients. Do remember that hives generally show up within half an hour of eating, so if you break out today, you can't necessarily blame the strawberries you had for dessert last night.

Avoid the trigger. This one's pretty obvious, but if you know that cold sets off hives, don't put your hands in the freezer. In fact, jumping into cold water could be life-threatening for some hives sufferers. And there's no question that if you're prone to hives, stress will trigger them. So learn or develop ways to ease or manage stress.

Treat the underlying infection. If hives turn into a chronic problem, they may be due to an infection. For instance, an undetected dental or yeast infection could trigger an outbreak. Consider these possibilities and have them checked out.

Relieve the pressure. Hives often form where clothing is tight, such as under bra straps or waistbands. Hives on your forehead? Reconsider that old baseball cap you love to wear.

Use a moisturizer. If dry skin contributes to the itch, apply a moisturizer to relieve it.

Don't make the problem worse. Nonprescription anti-itch lotions or creams can cause allergic reactions. If you react to topical Benadryl and topical products ending in "caine," you'll be in worse shape after using them. Calamine lotion, that old standby for so many itches, doesn't do much for hives either.

Your kitchen holds many cures that can ease an outbreak of hives. Keep reading to learn more about these helpful home remedies.

To learn more about avoiding allergens and dealing with allergic reactions, visit the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. A milk compress can soothe your hives outbreak.

Your kitchen is full of cures that can help you through an outbreak of hives. Give these home remedies a try the next time those red bumps flare up.

Home Remedies from the Cupboard

Baking soda. Add 1/2 to 1 cup baking soda to a warm bath to soothe your itching.

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Herbal tea. De-stress yourself by relaxing with a soothing cup of herbal tea.

Oatmeal. Add 1 to 2 cups finely ground oatmeal to a warm bath (not hot or you might have breakfast for the next month in your tub) to ease your itches.

Home Remedies from the Drawer

Oven mitts. Putting something on your hands can keep you from scratching. Cotton gloves are a good option, as are oven mitts. Tape them at the wrist, and you'll be less tempted to remove them to start scratching. If you wear the gloves to bed at night, you won't do damage if you scratch your itches unconsciously.

Home Remedies from the Freezer

Ice. An ice pack helps shrink blood vessels, which alleviates swelling. Put the compress, wrapped in a thin towel, on your skin five minutes at a time, three or four times a day.

Home Remedies from the Refrigerator

Milk. Calm your hives with a milk compress. Wet a cloth with cold milk and put it on your skin for 10 to 15 minutes.

Home Remedies from the Spice Rack

Asafoetida. This cousin of onions and garlic may help relieve your hives. Look for asafoetida powder in the spice section of your grocery store. Add 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder to 4 tablespoons castor oil and mix well. Apply the solution directly to your hives. Be sure to do this when you won't be seeing anyone for a few hours. Asafoetida makes you smell like a piece of garlic.

Basil. The Chinese believe bathing in basil tea is a good antidote for hives. Put 1 ounce dried basil in a 1-quart jar and fill the jar with boiling water. Let cool to room temperature and use it as a wash.

Home Remedies from the Supplement Shelf

Vitamin C. High doses of vitamin C have been found to lower histamine levels. This may ward off an attack of the hives. Taking at least 2,000 mg a day is necessary to alter histamine levels. Check with your doctor before loading up on vitamin C. Too much of this valuable nutrient can cause kidney stones and diarrhea.

Keep that itch at bay by remembering these home remedies to prevent or manage your next outbreak of hives.

To learn more about avoiding allergens and dealing with allergic reactions, visit the following links:

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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