When we think of allergies we usually think of hay fever – the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes that tell us spring has finally sprung. But there are many other kinds of allergies, as well, and it’s not always the nose that’s affected. For some people, coming into contact with the “wrong” things, like pollen, certain plants, or even ingredients in foods, can cause the skin to break out in ugly, itchy red blotches known as hives.
Hives occur when body produces too much histamine, a natural chemical that’s released when you’re exposed to pollen or other allergens. Even if you don’t have allergies you can still get hives – emotional stress and hot or cool weather can bring them on in some people.
The only way to prevent hives is to avoid whatever you’re sensitive to. Since this isn’t always possible, you need easy, practical solutions to relieve the discomfort.Here’s what doctors recommend.
Cool your skin . Research suggests that cooling your body will help shrink blood vessels, reducing the amount of histamine that reaches your skin. The next time you have hives, try taking cool showers or baths, or applying cool compresses. The less histamine reaches your skin, the quicker the hives will disappear.
Avoid the heat . Just as cold helps shrink the blood vessels, heating your body causes them to dilate, increasing the amount of histamine that reaches your skin. So when hives come out of hiding, it’s a good idea to avoid hot showers and generally keep your body cool until the outbreak passes.
Reach for milk of magnesia . This traditional over the counter remedy is somewhat alkaline, which can be very effective for soothing hives. Pour some on a cotton ball and apply it to your skin several times a day. You should start feeling better right away.
Stop the histamine . Because the chemical histamine causes hives, doctors often recommend that people with hives take an antihistamine, such as Benadryl. These medications are safe and effective, and often relieve the problem within a few days.
Look around you. Since you can get hives from so many different things, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s causing the problem. If you get hives often, it’s worth taking the time to review everything you recently came into contact with –what you are ate and drank, where you were, what you smelled. If you’re able to figure out what’s causing the problem, it will be a lot easier to prevent it in the future.