Hives normally appear as raised bumps on the skin, usually white with red patches around them, like welts or insect bites. However, different forms of this condition can appear as red streaks or lines on the skin. They usually appear in the upper body area, the chest, back, and arms, but they can occur anywhere on the body, including the hands and feet. With some people, they last only a few minutes, but many people experience them for several hours or even several days.
This condition is also called urticaria, from the scientific name of the stinging nettle plant. This plant is associated with skin irritation because direct contact with the live plant often produces the same type of skin rash, itching, and redness.
Causes of Urticaria (Hives)
Urticaria is a histamine response in the body, where the body produces histamines in an attempt to combat allergens or other influences. With urticaria, the histamine response is excessive and causes redness and itching. Urticaria is brought on by several possible factors:
- Heat: Exposure to hot air, humidity, or hot water can bring on this rash.
- Pressure: Also known as dermographia, pressure urticaria occurs around the beltline from the pressure of a belt, around bra straps on women, and even on parts of the body that have been leaning against a table or wall. The area experiencing the extra pressure turns red and itchy and often clears up within an hour. For some, however, the reaction can be intense and last hours.
- Allergies: Food allergies, especially those related to red meat and dairy, can cause the histamine reaction of urticaria. Also, strawberries, tropical fruit, citrus fruit, shellfish, and some nuts can cause the reaction.
- Environmental Toxins: Household toxins in cleansers, paints, and bug sprays can cause a histamine reaction.
- Emotion: International experts believe there may be an emotional component to urticaria, or that stress and depression can at least exacerbate the symptoms.
The most common prescription for Urticaria is an antihistamine. For some, a simple, over the counter allergy medicine works to remove the symptoms. For others, the dosage of 10 mg of active antihistamine (the highest dosage available over the counter) is not nearly enough. Formulas of up to 25 mg are often required. Urticaria has no known cures, and there are no good plant substitutes for antihistamines. However, you can lessen the intensity of urticaria and consequently the dosage or frequency of your antihistamine. Here are a few tips
- Use arnica cream topically or apply chamomile oil on hives to help ease redness and itching.
- Drink peppermint tea or take peppermint oil.
- Homeopathic remedies for hives include Apis mel and Urtica Urens.
- Cold baths and body brushing can reduce the symptoms.
- Hydrochloric acid (HCL) supplements can be effective to aid digestion in people who suffer from urticaria caused by food allergies.
- Vitamin B can help reduce symptoms and even prevent attacks, as can vitamin C and bromalain.
- Avoid scratching the hives or red areas, as this only worsens the reaction.
The Truth About Antihistamines
Antihistamines are broken down by the liver and eliminated through the kidneys. Over time, they can damage the liver. Be sure to take plenty of liver strengthening remedies (including milk thistle) if you are taking anti histamines. The best natural alternatives to chemical anti histamines are vitamin C and green tea extract. Combine these with extra iron and B complex vitamins.