In most instances, acute urticaria, (hives or swelling lasting less than six weeks) is successfully treated with antihistamines, according to WebMD. When hives persisting for longer durations (known as chronic urticaria) do not respond to antihistamines, oral corticosteroids or biologic drugs may be prescribed. In some instances, severe outbreaks may require an injection of epinephrine or steroid medication, explains WebMD.
Successful treatment also involves the avoidance of known triggers, explains the American Academy of Family Physicians. The most common causes are foods, infections, latex and medicines, notes WebMD. Among the foods most often responsible are nuts, chocolate, fish, soy and milk, with fresh foods causing hives more often than cooked foods. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that patients also avoid alcohol, aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use, as such substances may worsen symptoms.
To help manage symptoms and spur a quicker recovery, hives sufferers should also avoid hot water, use gentle soap, apply cool compresses or wet cloths to affected areas, work and sleep in cool environments, and wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, advises WebMD.
Hives accompanied by dizziness, wheezing, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, or swelling of the tongue, lips or face require immediate medical attention, warns WebMD.