Hives–clusters of raised, itchy red or white welts–can have any number of causes, says the Mayo Clinic. An allergic reaction or a response to medications or chemicals in foods can cause hives. In the case of chronic hives (hives that last for more than six weeks), the cause may remain unknown. Heat, cold, sunlight, and pressure can make hives even worse. Because hives are the result of histamines being released in your body, your doctor will most likely prescribe or recommend an antihistamine as a first line treatment, says the Mayo Clinic. There are natural ways to cure the itching and discomfort associated with hives.
Identify what triggers hives–and avoid it. This can be extremely tricky, says the Mayo Clinic because hives can be a reaction to a specific food, medication, or stimulus, and it can be difficult to narrow down the list of potential suspects. A medical condition that affects the immune system may be the cause of chronic hives, in which case it should be identified and treated.
Cool your skin. In "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies," skin allergy specialist Leonard Grayson, M.D. of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield suggests cool compresses as the best topical natural remedy for hives. You can even apply ice directly to the skin, Grayson says. But beware: If cold temperature makes your hives worse, this might not be helpful.
Brew red alder tea. In "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies," Varro E. Tyler, Ph.D., a pharmacognosy professor at Purdue University, suggests steeping red alder leaves and bark into a strong brew and applying it to hives. You can also consume a couple of tablespoons of the tea as well. Tyler explains that the tannin in the red alder acts as an astringent.
Try quercetin for chronic hives, advises Dr. Andrew Weil, integrative physician. Derived from buckwheat and citrus, quercetin helps reduce inflammation. Quercetin can be purchased from most health food markets. Weil suggests taking one 400 mg tablet twice daily, between meals, for about 6 to 8 weeks.
Put cornstarch or colloidal oatmeal into your bathwater and take a soak. Weil notes that these additives can soothe itching caused by hives.
Hives are common, affecting between 10 and 20 percent of people at some point in their lives, Weil says.
The medical term for hives is "urticaria."
Chronic hives can last for a long time, Weil says. Although 75 percent of people with this condition experience resolution after about 8 months, hives can persist for years.
Hives can't always be treated naturally, cautions "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies." If welts appear in your mouth or throat, they can block your airway. Call 911 immediately. If you have chronic or severe hives, see your doctor.
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.