According to the Mayo Clinic, hives are a skin reaction that causes red or white itchy welts. They appear when certain cells release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream. These outbreaks vary in size, appearing and fading repeatedly as the reaction runs its course.
Chronic hives, or urticaria (ur-tih-KAR-e-uh), can occur daily, last longer than six weeks or recur over months or even years. While hives aren’t life threatening usually, they can be very uncomfortable and interfere with daily activities and sleep. Fortunately, new research has discovered that a combination treatment provides relief.
Study Finds Combination Therapy Effective
A two-year University of Nebraska Medical Center study reports that taking over-the-counter vitamin D3 as an add-on therapy to antihistamines or other allergy medications provides significant relief from chronic hives. Because this condition has no cure and few treatment options, patients had suffered from five to 20 years with severe outbreaks. Some had been on therapy; others had not. Jill Poole, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, was the principal study investigator. The Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology published the results.
Over 12 weeks, study participants took a daily triple-drug combination of allergy medications (one prescription drug and two over-the-counter remedies) with an over-the-counter supplement. The vitamin D3 dosage was 600 IUs for half of the patients and 4000 IUs for the other half. After just one week, the severity of patients’ symptoms decreased by 33 percent in both groups. At the end of three months, the group taking the highest vitamin D3 dosage had a further 40 percent reduction in severity.
Patients taking the higher dose didn’t have as many welts. They also experienced a decline in the number of days per week that they had outbreaks. But the lower dose vitamin D3 treatment group had no further improvement after the first week. Poole concluded that the higher dosing of readily available vitamin D3, a safe and potentially beneficial therapy, showed promise without adverse effects.
Risk Factors and Triggers
Two criteria increase your risk of developing chronic hives.
Female gender. These welts affect women twice as often as men.
Young adults suffer from hives more than younger and older people.
Doctors can’t identify the reason for this skin reaction always or why it turns into a long-term chronic condition sometimes. But common triggers include:
Insects or parasites
An underlying health problem such as thyroid disease or lupus
Patches of red or white welts, usually on the face, trunk, arms, or legs
Welts that vary in size, change shape, and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course
Itching, which may be severe
Swelling that causes pain or burning (angioedema), especially inside the throat and around the eyes, cheeks, lips, hands, feet, and genitals
A tendency for symptoms to flare with triggers such as heat, exercise, and stress
Symptom frequency and unpredictably that may recur for months or years
When to Seek Medical Care
See your doctor if you have:
Welts that don’t respond to treatment
Outbreaks that last several days
Seek emergency care for:
Severe chest tightness or trouble breathing. When swelling occurs inside your mouth or throat, you may have difficulty breathing and even pass out.
Swollen tongue or throat
Anaphylactic shock. This serious allergic reaction involves your heart or lungs. It narrows your bronchial tubes, lowers your blood pressure, and makes breathing difficult. You may feel dizzy or pass out. It can even cause death. Anaphylactic shock happens quickly. Seeking emergency medical care if you feel this type of allergic reaction coming on is vital.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions to determine what might be causing your symptoms. Be ready to describe:
Medications, herbal remedies, and supplements
Beverages and foods
Where hives appear and how long welts take to fade
Many people find that antihistamine medications like Zyrtec alleviate the discomfort of chronic hives. Oral corticosteroids like Prednisone can lessen swelling, redness, and itching. For convenience, order prescription or over-the-counter Zyrtec, vitamin D, and Prednisone from the same online pharmacy.
Determining the underlying cause of chronic hives isn’t always possible. If the first-choice therapies don’t work for you, your doctor may order one or more tests including:
Allergy tests if your medical history and food diary haven’t helped identify the cause of your hives
Other tests to rule out underlying health conditions
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
These precautions may help prevent or soothe the recurring discomfort of chronic hives:
Try not to scratch or irritate affected areas.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
Don’t use harsh soaps.
Cool affected areas with a shower, fan, cool cloth, or soothing lotion.
Keep a diary of when and where hives occur as well as what you were doing, eating, and drinking to help you and your doctor identify triggers.
Avoid known triggers such as alcohol, certain foods or additives, heat, cold, exertion, and stress.