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Itchy Skin - Hives

Hives, medically known as urticaria, is a common skin rash that is characterised by red, itchy, raised welts. Often these welts can appear like a group of mosquito bites. They consist of raised lines (weals) that have a red margin and are pale in the centre.

Hives is a common allergic reaction, and can occur anywhere on your body, but most commonly appear on your trunk (chest), throat, arms and legs. After you are exposed to a ‘trigger’ or ‘allergen’, your body releases a chemical called histamine, which causes itching and swelling. The most common trigger for hives is an infection, however medications, insect stings and food allergy may also be triggers.

Although hives can be unpleasant, they usually resolve on their own over a period of days or weeks and are rarely a serious medical emergency. Whilst you are waiting for the hives and swelling to disappear, there are a number of things that you can do to help relieve some of the troublesome symptoms. If your skin does not appear to improve in 24 to 48 hours or if you have any other concerns, it is best to speak to your local Advantage Pharmacist or Doctor. In rare cases, allergic reactions, such as hives, can lead to a serious medical condition known as anaphylaxis. Thus, if you experience any of the following symptoms alongside with your hives call an ambulance or seek medical attention immediately:

  • You are feeling dizzy, light-headed or extremely fatigued;
  • You are experiencing difficulties in breathing or you are wheezing;
  • You notice swelling that involves your lips, tongue and throat;
  • You become pale and sweaty;
  • You feel tightness in your chest.

Treatment

The best treatment for hives is to identify and remove the ‘trigger’ or ‘allergen’ which is causing you to have this allergic response. If you believe you’re experiencing hives due to a medication, it is important that you speak to your Doctor as this medication may need to be ceased and changed to an alternative medicine. It is not always easy identifying your trigger, however regardless of the cause, the treatment options are generally successful in controlling your symptoms.

Antihistamines, available at your local Advantage Pharmacy, are often the best medicine to relieve the symptoms of hives, as they help oppose the effects of the chemical ‘histamine’ which has been released in your body. Try to choose a less-sedating antihistamine, such as Advantage Fexofenadine 180mg or Advantage Loratadine 10mg Tablets, for during the day. These medications are well tolerated and help to relieve the swelling and itchiness of your skin. If you find that your symptoms are not completely relieved and are especially troubling you at night, ask your Advantage Pharmacist about a different kind of antihistamine, such as Polaramine Tablets. These older generation antihistamines can cause drowsiness and thus these tablets may not suit everyone; caution must be taken when driving and operating machinery

In most cases, antihistamine tablets should provide sufficient relief of your ‘itchy’ symptoms. However, you may find that applying a topical cream to the affected area may give you some quick soothing relief. Weak corticosteroid creams, such as Dermaid 0.5% or Sigmacort 1%, are available over-the-counter at your local Advantage Pharmacy. These creams can help relieve some inflammation and itchiness from your hives, however they should only be used for a short period of time; no longer than 5 days at a time. Alternatively, you can try a cream such as Medi Quattro First Aid Cream which contains an antiseptic, an anaesthetic to help numb local pain and an anti-inflammatory to ease swelling - whilst also moisturising the area to help soothe damaged skin. Ask your Advantage Pharmacist to advise you on the best product for your symptoms

Additional Advice

You may also find relief from hives by trying some of the following home-care tips:

  • Apply a cool compress to the affected area. Soak a face washer in some cool water and then apply it to the affected area to help relieve the itching and swelling. Additionally, you can either add some colloidal oatmeal, such as Dermaveen Shower and Bath Oil, or a pine tar such as Hamilton’s Pine Tar Solution, to the cool water before soaking the towel.
  • Heat may aggravate your hives. Try to work and sleep in a cool room.
  • Try to wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothes.