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How to relieve hives at home

Tips from board-certified dermatologists

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Feb. 11, 2022) — Hives are a common skin reaction that causes itchy bumps or raised, swollen-looking patches to appear on the skin. If you have a darker skin tone, hives are often the same color as your skin, or slightly darker or lighter. If you have a lighter skin tone, the hives will look red or pink.

“Multiple factors — including sunlight, stress, and an allergic reaction to food and medicine — can cause hives,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Danilo Del Campo, MD, FAAD. “Hives are usually harmless and temporary. A single hive tends to last for a few minutes to a few hours. Most hives clear within 24 hours.”

Anyone can get hives, however, women of African American heritage, those who have eczema, and people who smoke cigarettes have a greater risk of developing them.

To get relief from hives at home, Dr. Del Campo recommends the following tips:

  1. Soothe the itch with a cool, damp washcloth; anti-itch cream or lotion; or colloidal oatmeal baths.

  2. Try not to scratch. This can be difficult as hives are notoriously itchy, but scratching irritates your skin more. Keeping fingernails short can reduce scratching.

  3. Gently bathe using warm water. When bathing, you want to be very gentle with your skin. Avoid rubbing the itchy skin with a washcloth, loofah, or mesh sponge. It’s best to apply your soap or cleanser by gently putting it on your skin with your hands.

  4. Use fragrance-free cleanser. Make sure that you use a fragrance-free product rather than an unscented one. An unscented product contains fragrance that’s been covered up so that you cannot smell it. Because an unscented product contains fragrance, it can still irritate your skin.

  5. Wear loose-fitting, 100% cotton clothing. This can reduce the irritation on your skin.

  6. Track your hives. If you frequently get hives or your hives last a long time, keep track of them in a journal. This can help you figure out what’s triggering your hives and prevent them from coming back.

“If your hives don’t clear after following these tips, talk to a board-certified dermatologist,” says Dr. Del Campo. “Get immediate medical care or go to the nearest emergency room if you have hives, along with any of the following: problems swallowing, feel light-headed or faint, have swelling in your mouth or throat or a racing heart or shortness of breath or trouble breathing.”

These tips are demonstrated in “How to Relieve Hives at Home,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.

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Angela Panateri, apanateri@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

Hives Overview

Chronic hives: 10 ways to get relief

Cold urticaria: Welts on skin due to cold temperature could be hives

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.