Cool, wet compresses, antihistamines, loose cotton clothing and a cool bath are home treatments recommended for hives, according to Mayo Clinic. Allergic triggers such as pollen, latex, pet dander, insect stings and medications may exacerbate existing hives.
Dressings and bandages applied to the affected area help prevent scratching and comfort the skin, says Mayo Clinic. Nonprescription antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Benadryl or Claritin counter the allergic reaction and relieve itching. Wool and other rough fabrics cause skin irritation, so smooth, breathable clothes offer more relief. Soaking in cool bath water infused with baking soda or oatmeal relieves itching.
Different types of hives have different causes and may respond differently to treatment, notes WebMD. Acute hives are commonly caused by foods, infections and medications, and they last six weeks or less. Chronic hives last more than six weeks and may be caused by hepatitis, cancer, thyroid disease or infection. Chronic hives sometimes affect internal organs and muscles, which cause vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and aching muscles. Some hives are cause by direct stimulation of the skin; these are localized and appear quickly.
Intense episodes of hives require medical attention, explains Mayo Clinic. An injection of a type of adrenalin called epinephrine is used in emergencies. Hives caused by an overactive autoimmune system are treated with prescription drugs, and corticosteroids are used in severe cases. Medications to control blood proteins are used when hives are caused by hereditary factors.