Hives in children are usually caused by an allergic reaction to foods, insect stings or medications, according to the National Institutes of Health. When an allergen is encountered, the body releases histamine. This chemical is the cause of the swelling and redness associated with hives. Sometimes, a viral infection may cause hives, according to Children's Hospital-Denver. Hives, or urticaria, look like red or white raised patches on the skin. They appear suddenly, spread rapidly, and may come in waves. Hives typically last for several days to a week.
Things You'll Need
- Over-the-counter antihistamine
- Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
- Ice packs
How to Treat Hives in Children
Treat the child immediately. Do not wait to see if the hives disappear without treatment, as allergic reactions can progress rapidly, even in a child with no known allergies.
Bathe the child with soap and water to remove any substances from the skin that may be triggering the allergic reaction. This is especially important if the hives are confined to one area of the body or if the child was recently playing outside or may have been exposed to a topical allergen.
Give the child an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl, as soon as you notice the hives. Check the label to determine the appropriate dose for the child's weight and age. Benadryl can be given every six hours, or more frequently if instructed by the child's pediatrician.
Apply ice to the hives to reduce swelling and ease itching. Massage the area for 20 minutes with a cold pack, according to Children's Hospital-Denver. A cool bath every couple of hours is also helpful.
Avoid hot showers and baths, tight-fitting clothing and other causes of skin irritation. The National Institutes of Health warns that these may worsen itching and swelling.
Use over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to relieve exceptionally itchy hives. In the United States, hydrocortisone cream is available in 0.5% and 1.0% strengths. Always start with the weakest cream on children.
Call the child's pediatrician if the cause of the hives is unknown, if this is the first episode of hives, or if the child suffers from life-threatening allergies.
Watch the child closely for signs of a worsening reaction, such as trouble breathing, swelling of the face or tongue, wheezing, pale skin or persistent vomiting. If any of these symptoms develop, or if there is a history of anaphylaxis, take the child to the emergency room for additional treatment.
Manage chronic hives with a daily antihistamine, oral corticosteroid, H2 antagonist, or other medication prescribed by your doctor. Allergy testing and immunotherapy may also be considered, according to the Mayo Clinic.