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Finding the Right Treatment for Hives

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11 Ways to Relieve a Chronic Hives Breakout

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer Larson on June 15, 2021
  • african-american-woman-sleeping
    Find some relief from a chronic hives flare-up.
    If you develop itchy red welts, or hives, on your skin that stick around for more than six weeks, you probably have a case of chronic hives. The hives may gradually subside, but with chronic hives, you can anticipate that they’ll be back. They often reappear suddenly and unpredictably over the course of the months that follow. Also known as chronic urticaria, chronic hives are itchy and uncomfortable, and they can disrupt your activities of daily living. Finding some relief from a chronic hives breakout can help you sleep better at night and cope better during the day.
  • packet of antihistamines and pills on table
    1. Take an antihistamine.
    An over-the-counter antihistamine might be the first thing you reach for when you realize those itchy red welts are back. Your immune system often responds to perceived allergens by producing a chemical called histamine, which leads to those red, itchy bumps, but an antihistamine will block the histamine. If you have a full day ahead of you, a non-sedating antihistamine, like loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), desloratadine (Clarinex), or cetirizine (Zyrtec), might be just the ticket for treating a relatively mild flare-up of chronic hives. However, if your hives are keeping you from sleeping at night, your doctor might suggest taking a dose of a sedating antihistamine at night.
  • Woman in sunny yoga studio relaxing on her mat
    2. Start focusing on stress reduction.
    Nothing can wreak havoc quite as much as stress. It can increase the likelihood of a chronic hives breakout and even make you feel itchier. If stress tends to contribute to your chronic hives breakouts, consider the sources of your stress. Make a list of your biggest stressors, then brainstorm some solutions to each one. What steps can you take to reduce your stress? Pick just one strategy to start with, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • close up of woman applying moisturizer one hand
    3. Use moisturizer.
    Do you have dry skin? You might try applying a fragrance-free moisturizer to your skin several times a day. This might help cut down on the irritation and dryness to make the itch that’s so common with chronic hives feel worse. Look for products designed for sensitive skin, and again, avoid the fragrance since it can be an irritant.
  • setting-air-conditioning-temperature
    4. Stay cool.
    The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you avoid overheating. Heat’s a well-known trigger for hives, and that can include heat from the weather or a shower. If you’re feeling overly warm, your skin may let you know it’s time to cool off. If you have air-conditioning available to you, use it. A cool shower is another way to bring the temperature down and potentially bring you some relief.
  • Woman choosing clothes from wardrobe
    5. Use other strategies that help with acute hives.
    If you’ve ever broken out in a case of acute hives, you might have tried a few coping strategies. Those strategies might bring a little relief to you now, too. For example, trade your tight clothes for loose, lightweight cotton clothes that won’t further irritate your skin or perhaps use cold compresses on your skin. If these bring you some temporary relief with your chronic hives, too, then definitely give them a try. Some people also find relief with an over-the-counter anti-itch medication that you can apply to your skin.
  • prescription medical cream coming out of tube
    6. Look into topical steroids.
    Chronic hives often require a doctor’s care. Talk to your allergist or dermatologist to see what treatment options are out there. They might prescribe a topical steroid for you to use if your hives flare-ups are infrequent. Be careful not to overuse this topical treatment, however, as prolonged use of steroids can thin your skin and cause other side effects.
  • Injection with insulin pen
    7. Consider injectable medication
    Your doctor may suggest you try an injectable medication, like omalizumab (Xolair), to control your chronic hives better than an antihistamine. Omalizumab belongs to a class of medications called monoclonal antibodies. Usually, it’s administered about once every two or four weeks when used to treat chronic hives.
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  • Caucasian pharmacist giving prescription to customer
    8. Take cyclosporine.
    Another possible therapeutic option to try is cyclosporine-A (CsA). Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant drug, so it’s not for everyone. And it can cause a variety of side effects, ranging from high blood pressure to headache to reduced kidney function. But some research suggests that it can be a good treatment option for some people with a really severe case of chronic urticaria.
  • Closeup on young woman eating pill
    9. Take your thyroid medicine.
    People with certain autoimmune thyroid disorders seem more likely to develop chronic hives. In fact, some research has found that 25 to 30% of people with chronic hives have an underlying thyroid disorder like Hashimoto’s disease. If you’re supposed to be taking the synthetic thyroid hormone known as levothyroxine, make sure you’re not skipping a dose, because this medicine may be able to help improve a chronic hives breakout.
  • young man scratching skin on arm
    10. Seek out itch-coping training.
    Research suggests that itch-coping training can help people with various dermatological conditions deal with the itch factor. Learning some strategies for resisting the urge to frequently scratch may also have the added benefits of reducing your need to turn to topical corticosteroids or other medications. Less itching that translates into less scratching may also help you better preserve your skin.
  • Older African American man taking pills out of weekly pill box
    11. Consider other immunomodulators.
    If you’ve tried other medications and strategies for coping with the discomfort of a chronic hives flare-up, and they’re not effective enough, your doctor might be willing to prescribe an immunomodulator like methotrexate or mycophenolate. Like some of the other medications that are used for chronic hives, these can have side effects that you might want to discuss with your doctor.
Hives Breakout | Hives Relief

About The Author

Jennifer Larson has more than 15 years of professional writing experience with a specialization in healthcare. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and memberships in the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Education Writers Association.
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Last Review Date: 2021 May 21
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