What are hives?
Hives, also known as urticaria, are itchy, red welts that develop on the skin. They can appear suddenly and disappear within minutes to hours but can recur daily. Hives can look very similar to mosquito bites and the welts can sometimes join together to form very large patches. Once these bumps disappear, they should not leave any marks or bruising on the skin.
Hives can be caused by many triggers – these can include allergies to food or medications, as well as environmental and physical reactions to heat, the cold, and even tight clothing and excessive physical pressure on the skin. Hives can also develop as a result of stress. Stress-induced hives tend to be more common when there is already a history of hives caused by allergies.
If you have developed hives, think back over the past two to three days to rule out exposure to new foods or medication (including over-the-counter ones) as a cause for the hives. Once you have ruled out other causes and you have concluded that you’d suffered stress-induced hives, try de-stressing as much as possible.
Start with a walk outdoors, take a little time for yourself and have a tea break, or delegate some of your tasks, if you can. Unfortunately, the anxiety associated with having hives sometimes adds to the stress itself. Some patients benefit from mindfulness activities, such as meditation. Swimming, as a form of exercise, is also encouraged.
What to do with stress induced hives?
When you develop hives, it’s best to avoid certain medications, such as aspirin and painkillers known as NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), including diclofenac, mefenamic acid and ibuprofen. Cough mixtures containing codeine can also aggravate the condition.
Instead, take antihistamines, which are usually available as over-the-counter medication. These include loratadine, cetirizine, fexofenadine and chlorpheniramine. Do note that some of these medications can cause drowsiness, so it is best to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery after taking such medications. Do also avoid drinking alcohol when you take antihistamines.
Avoid hot water and wear more loose-fitting, comfortable cotton garments until the rashes start to subside. Applying certain soothing creams and gels, as well as calamine lotion, can offer relief to the skin quickly.
In most cases, the hives will go away within a few days to weeks. See a skin specialist or dermatologist if simple measures do not work, or if bad swelling around the lips or eyes accompany the hives, or if you are wheezing or have difficulty breathing.