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Natural and Clinical Ways to Treat Hives on Skin

Many factors can cause hives on the skin, including physical and environmental factors. However, you can treat the symptoms holistically at home.

Woman scratching a rash on her left arm

Hives on the skin (clinically called urticaria) can be identified by raised skin and rashes. It can appear on only one area or spread across large areas of the body. The rash can be extremely itchy and typically range from a few millimetres to the size of a person’s hand.

Read on to learn about the different hives types and at-home remedies that can help alleviate symptoms of the condition.

What are the Reasons Behind Hives on Skin?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hives are related to diet, genetics, or a body constitution imbalance.

Physician Lim Sock Ling explains, “People who inherit an intrinsic body type or weak Lungs are most vulnerable to skin allergies. Unhealthy eating will accumulate Heat and Dampness in the stomach and intestines, contributing to an outbreak of hives. Blood Deficiency can lead to skin itchiness and dryness.” 

Some of the more common types of hives include: 

Shivering woman crossing her arms while standing  
Exposure to a cold environment may trigger an onset of cold hives.

Cold hives 

This type of hives is uncommon and can develop after exposure to cold water, temperature, or objects. It’s unclear what causes the condition. 

However, it has been linked to infections and underlying health problems. In TCM, cold hives are believed to be brought on by Wind and Coldness.

Solar hives 

Like cold hives, solar urticaria is also rare. A person diagnosed with this type of hives will briefly develop skin swelling after exposure to natural sunlight. 

The emission of light from an artificial source can also provoke the onset of the condition. 

Vibratory hives 

Actions that vibrate skin are the main culprit behind this type of hives. Examples of these are:  

  • Mowing a lawn 
  • Riding a horse 
  • Cycling over a stone pathway 
  • Massaging or towelling an area of the body 
  • Using power tools like drills, jackhammers, and metal grinders 

Aquagenic hives 

The rapid development of a skin rash is the most notable trait of aquagenic urticaria. Sometimes, a person may also suffer itching. 

Aquagenic urticaria happens when a person’s skin encounters water, irrespective of temperature.

Cholinergic hives 

A common type of hives, cholinergic hives stem from sweat-inducing stimuli and prompt a temporary onset of itchy skin bumps. TCM associates the Wind-Heat pathogen with the occurrence of these hives. 

Dermographism hives 

Downward pressure or trauma will lead to the appearance of swollen skin in people with dermographism. It’ll take the shape of the applied external force. A person with this type of hives can also experience symptoms like itching and skin redness.

Pressure or delayed pressure hives 

Dermographism and pressure hives share a common characteristic; the appearance of skin bumps after applying force. However, pressure hives can also cause pain, itching, and a burning sensation on the skin. Pressure on the skin from tight-fitting clothing or a purse strap for example, can apply enough pressure to cause hives. 

The symptoms of this type of hives can develop immediately after stimulation or after four to six hours. Pressure hives can also be aggravated by heat, aspirin use, or menstruation

How Hives are Diagnosed

A healthcare provider can usually diagnose hives by looking at the rash. They may also conduct a blood test and a skin prick or patch test. A small amount of the allergen is applied on skin to see if it reacts to determine the underlying triggers of the condition. 

Remedies for Hives on Your Skin 

Lifestyle modifications  

Making a few simple changes to your lifestyle can help relieve itching in people with chronic hives. These include:  

  • Avoiding environments with high temperature or humidity 
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes and clothes made from cotton fabric 
  • Using a fragrance-free skin moisturiser several times daily to prevent dry skin 
  • Applying a cold compress to an affected area of skin (unless you’ve been diagnosed with cold hives, of course) 

Medications 

Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines are suitable for treating hives. The medication’s mode of action is to suppress the effect of histamine. Histamine is a type of chemical in the skin that causes allergy symptoms. 

It’s preferable to use antihistamines that don’t make a person woozy. These are more effective, induce fewer side effects and you can take them more than once daily. An allergist may suggest combining two or three types of antihistamines with cold compresses or anti-itch to ease a person’s symptoms. 

Acupuncture treatment 

Studies show that acupuncture can successfully calm the symptoms of hives. This is attributed to the treatment’s ability to improve blood circulation, thus reducing inflammation. Several acupuncture points commonly used to treat hives include: 

  • Qu chi (LI11, 曲池) 
  • Xue hai (SP10, 血海) 
  • San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交) 
  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里) 

Herbal formulas and ingredients  

A person may use herbal formulas and ingredients to tackle the specific internal imbalances that cause hives. Physician Lim recommends these common formulas:

  • Wind-Cold

Hives are white and symptoms worsen with exposure to cold. This could likely be associated with cold hives. Ma Huang Gui Zhi Ge Ban soup (麻黄桂枝各半汤) will help dissipate Wind, remove Cold and stop itch. 

  • Wind-Heat

Hives are bright red, warm and itchy, which worsen in warm weather. Xiao Feng powder (消风散) helps dissipate Wind, clear Heat and stop itch.

  • Damp-Heat in the digestive system

Hive patches are large, red, and extremely itchy. Patients often experience abdominal pain, nausea and poor bowel movements as well. Fang Feng Tong Shen powder (防风通圣散) helps dissipate Wind and clear Heat from the intestines.

  • Blood-deficient with Wind Dryness

A result of repeat occurrence that leads to a chronic condition. You tend to be easily frustrated and short-tempered from the late afternoon onwards. Other symptoms include warm palms and feet, and thirsty and dry skin Nourish blood, remove Wind, improve dryness and stop itch with Dang Gui Yin Zi (当归饮子).

Other herbs such as dittany bark (bai xian pi, 白鲜皮), dried peony root bark (mu dan pi, 牡丹皮), and kochia fruit (di fu zi, 地肤子) are common recommendations to treat hives.

Those on blood-thinning medications should practise caution when using Dang Gui Yin Zi, dried peony root bark, hawthorn berry, and Chinese Angelica root. Those with Blood Deficiencies should refrain from using siler root (fang feng, 方风).

Getting immediate medical attention can prevent the symptoms of hives on the skin from worsening. Likewise, consulting a TCM practitioner before using herbal remedies can keep potential contraindications at bay.

References

  1. NHS inform. Urticaria (hives). [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  2. Indian Journal of Dermatology. CHRONIC URTICARIA. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  3. Allergy & Asthma Network. Cold Urticaria. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  4. Medscape. 2022. Solar Urticaria. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  5. DermNet. 2020. Vibratory urticaria. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  6. National Center for Advancing Transitional Sciences. Aquagenic urticaria. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  7. DermNet. 2022. Cholinergic urticaria. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  8. NCBI Bookshelf. Dermatographism. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  9. Medscape. 2019. Pressure urticaria – Background. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  10. Medscape. 2019. Pressure urticaria – Etiology. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 WAYS TO GET RELIEF FROM CHRONIC HIVES. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]
  12. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Hives. [online] [Accessed 3 September 2022]

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