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Facts about Hives

Hives are extremely itchy raised red or white welts on the skin. The size varies from small goose-bumps to large swellings that cover large areas of the body. They may be present for only a few minutes, or persist for several days. They usually go away on their own but may recur regularly if the cause is not identified. Their scientific name is urticaria.

What causes Hives

Hives are often an allergic reaction to something you have eaten, touched or inhaled. In an allergic reaction, the body releases a chemical called histamine to attack the foreign substance. - Hives develop in response to the high histamine levels as the affected area is swollen with blood.

Allergens that most commonly provoke hives include foods such as strawberries, fish or nuts, drugs such as penicillin and aspirin, and various food additives, emulsifiers, flavourings or preservatives. To pinpoint the cause of a food allergy, it may be helpful to keep a diary to record the link between the foods eaten and the allergic reactions such as hives or sneezing.

Some people develop hives in response to stress, insect bites, extreme temperatures, or even pressure on the skin (e.g. from tight clothes). The materials in the clothes such as wool or animal furs can also cause hives, as can the substances in the materials such as dust mites, dyes, preservative chemicals and soap residues. Soaps, skin treatments and make up products can also cause hives and rashes.

Infectious organisms such as Hepatitis B virus, Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of glandular fever), the fungus Candida and a variety of bacteria have also been associated with hives. In cases such as these, the sufferer must be treated for the infectious organisms as well as the hives.

Natural therapies for Hives

To relieve itching, apply a soothing lotion or cream such as chickweed or nettle, to the area - a mild case of hives will often disappear after a few hours.

  • High doses of vitamin C may reduce severity of symptoms of allergic reations
  • Vitamin B complex is indicated to help your body cope with stress
  • Nettle tea - when cool, bathe itchy area. Can also be drunk
  • Bathing the affected area with Oatmeal soap can relieve the itching as can a bath with baking powder added.
  • Cool compresses can also help.Mint ice cubes in particular can bring a great deal of relief.Make a strong mint tea and freeze it in ice cube trays.These cubes can then be used to cool the affected inflamed skin.
  • Eating leafy green vegetables and apples may help because they contain the plant pigment quercetin.This substance is a natural antihistamine and helps to reduce the presence of histamines in the body.
  • If you are prone to hives and other allergies, taking a daily vitamin C supplement with bioflavonoids may help to reduce your sensitivity. Cayenne pepper capsules may also help build up the immune system.

Lifestyle factors that lead to Hives

When you have hives, there are several things you can do to reduce the severity and longevity of the symptoms. Wear loose comfortable clothing, because the pressure of tight clothes or belts when your body is in a hyper-sensitive state may lead to more hives. Stay cool and drink lots of water. Overheating and sweating can make the hives worse. Resist the temptation to cover the area in creams as this can further irritate the skin by trapping the heat. Avoid eating foods that may make the condition worse.

The most important course of action against hives is to identify the irritating substances and reduce contacts with them as much as possible. This is often easier said than done, as most people with allergies are allergic to more than one substance. Keeping a diary of foods consumed and products worn along with resulting reactions can be very useful in identifying and eliminating irritants from one’s life.

As well, take steps to reduce stress, anxiety and tension in your life and work to improve your overall health. For this, adequate rest and sensible levels of exercise are essential. Meditation can also reduce the effects of stress.
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