Hives constitute a common skin allergy that is characterized by a sudden onset of itchy red, raised patches that appear anywhere on the body. Approximately 15 percent of all people will develop hives at some point in their lives. Hives can last anywhere from a few hours to a full day. Hives are typically a harmless allergic reaction usually caused by medications, food and pet allergies, pollen, insect bites and stress. Hives are produced by histamine that is released in the body, which causes fluid to leak from blood vessels and causes swelling.
Antihistamines are a popular treatment for controlling hives. These medications can be found over the counter in brand names such as Claritin, Zyrtec, Chlor-Trimeton and Benadryl. Antihistamines block the production of the histamines that cause the swelling and itching. These drugs can be taken three times per day as needed, but they do cause drowsiness, so you should not take them if you are going to be driving or operating machinery. If the over-the-counter brands do not work, your physician may prescribe a stronger antihistamine such as Vistaril or Allegra.
If your hive symptoms are severe, your physician may prescribe an oral steroid such as prednisone. Prednisone can provide relief, but most cases of hives are chronic and last too long for steroid use to be considered safe. Prednisone can cause insomnia, weight gain, glaucoma and depression. Steroids can provide short-term relief from swelling, itching and redness.
Creams and Topical Ointments
Topical treatments can be used to numb the nerve endings and ease the pain and itching of hives. These creams usually contain ingredients such as camphor, menthol, diphenhydramine and pramoxine. Many of these creams do not require a prescription, such as Benadryl.
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