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.”
board-certified dermatologist Dr. Danilo Del Campo, MD, FAAD.
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:
Soothe the itch with a cool, damp washcloth; anti-itch cream or lotion; or colloidal oatmeal baths.
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.
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.
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.
Wear loose-fitting, 100% cotton clothing. This can reduce the irritation on your skin.
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.”