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Hives: How to get relief at home

How to relieve hives at home

Hives are a common skin reaction that causes itchy bumps, raised and swollen-looking patches, or both to appear on the skin. If you or your child has a case of hives, these tips from board-certified dermatologists can bring relief.

Most cases of hives go away on their own in a few days or weeks. Until hives clear, following these tips from board-certified dermatologists can help relieve your itch and discomfort.

  1. Relieve the itch without scratching or rubbing: Scratching and rubbing can trigger more hives. When your skin starts to itch, the following can help you feel more comfortable:

    • Apply a cool compress to your itchy skin. To make a cool compress, run a clean washcloth under cold water to get it wet. Wring out the washcloth so that the water doesn’t drip. Then place the wet, cool washcloth on the itchy skin. Leave the washcloth on the itchy area for 10 to 20 minutes.
    • Spread an anti-itch cream (or lotion) on the itchy skin. Be sure to follow the directions. If your dermatologist has prescribed one, use it.
    • Add colloidal oatmeal to a bathtub of warm water and soak for the time recommended on the package.

  2. Try not to scratch. This can be difficult as hives are notoriously itchy, but this is important. Scratching irritates your skin, which can trigger more hives. Try to relieve the itch with one of the tips listed above. Dermatologists also recommend keeping your fingernails short because they’re less likely to harbor dirt and bacteria, which can lead to an infection.

  3. Use only gentle, fragrance-free soap, cleanser, and other skin care products. Fragrance can irritate your skin, which could trigger more hives. 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.

  4. Take warm (not hot) baths and showers. Hot water can irritate your skin. While 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.

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

  6. If hives last more than a few days or you get hives frequently, keep a journal: This may help you figure out what’s triggering your hives. If you find the trigger and avoid it, you can prevent new hives from forming. You want to jot down the following:

    • Date and time the hives started
    • What you were doing before the hives began
    • Foods and drinks you recently had
    • Medications you recently took, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and any prescription medications
    • If you recently felt overheated or perspired heavily
    • What you were wearing and carrying
    • If you’ve been feeling stressed
    • If you recently had an illness like strep throat or a cold

  7. If hives last 6 weeks or longer, see a board-certified dermatologist. While most cases of hives go away in a few weeks, they can last longer. Your dermatologist will look for what’s triggering the hives. If a cause cannot be found, your dermatologist can still stop hives from forming.

To explain how hives can be successfully treated when the cause is unknown, we interviewed two board-certified dermatologists. Find out what these dermatologists say by going to Chronic hives: How dermatologists help people get relief.

Rosman Y, Hershko AY, et al. “Characterization of chronic urticaria and associated conditions in a large population of adolescents.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019;81(1):129-35.

Written by:
Paula Ludmann, MS

Reviewed by:
DiAnne Davis, MD, FAAD
Elisa Gallo, MD, FAAD
William Warren Kwan, MD, FAAD
Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, FAAD

Last updated: 5/30/24