Dealing with chronic hives and other autoimmune conditions has taught me many things about taking control of my health throughout the years. Today I am more cognizant regarding ways to prevent hives flare-ups and potentially shorten breakouts when they do occur.
If you are living with chronic hives, my tips might be able to help you prevent or better control flare-ups.
1. Document the event. It isn’t uncommon for chronic hives, or urticaria, to be misdiagnosed. When you experience hives, document the breakout via pictures taken with your cell phone. My symptoms combined with photographs helped my allergist diagnose it immediately.
2. Find the right allergist. Locating a caring and knowledgeable allergist has been one of my greatest tools in preventing and controlling hives flare-ups. Search for an allergist in your area who stays on top of chronic hives research and medication, and is experienced in helping patients determine their triggers.
3. Consider antihistamines. When working with an allergist, he or she will likely prescribe low dose antihistamines in between flare-ups, and many increase these medications when hives erupt. Antihistamines are considered first-line medications in cases of hives.
4. Learn about immunosuppressives. For moderate to severe hives, ask your allergist about stronger medication options such as steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, or anti-IgE monoclonal antibodies.
5. Recognize potential triggers. Not everyone with chronic hives will be able to pinpoint their triggers, but for others the culprit may be quite obvious. Common triggers include pet dander, food, exercise, hot or cold temperatures, stress, the sun, medication, or medicine.
6. Inquire about allergy tests. If things like pollen, food, or pet dander are triggers for your hives, speak with your allergist about allergy shots. Over time, these shots may help decrease your sensitivity to specific triggers.
Alternative Medicine-related Tips
7. Try acupuncture. Acupuncture has helped me decrease stress and ultimately, hives. In addition, a study found that acupuncture could reduce the number of outbreaks and duration of hives by the third week of treatment.
8. Consider restorative yoga. Because stress can make hives outbreaks worsen, restorative yoga is a non-strenuous way to relax the nervous system and the mind.
9. Supplement with the right vitamin. A recent study showed vitamin D can reduce symptoms by as much as 40 percent. Speak to your doctor about adding this to your regimen.
10. Take advantage of oatmeal. Add colloidal oatmeal (a finely ground oatmeal) to your baths, as it is known to reduce itching and help calm skin.
Self-care and Mental Health-related Tips
11. Acknowledge the emotional aspect. Be aware that chronic hives can bring about feelings of anxiousness and depression. If you notice either of these, acknowledge the emotions and seek help.
12. Seek out a counselor. Having a chronic condition can cause a variety of lifestyle changes, emotions, and limitations. A trained counselor can help you work through your new “normal.” If you are in an outbreak and cannot leave the house, consider online counseling through TalkSpace.com or Betterhelp.com.
13. Take up meditation. Because stress and hives are so intricately linked, meditation can help in multiple areas. Try apps such as Calm or Headspace to learn guided meditation and discover how to meditate on your own during trying moments.
14. Learn stress-reducing techniques. Specific breathing exercises, biofeedback, reading, or even coloring can help reduce stress. Try different techniques and find some that work for you.
15. Practice patience. Hives can make us feel stressed out, and stress can cause more hives to erupt. During an outbreak, we may feel like the hives will never go away. Remind yourself that this episode will pass and be patient with your body, as it is already in a battle.
16. Reassess your clothing. Many people with chronic hives aren’t aware that restrictive clothing can cause pressure or friction on the skin and make hives worse. Stick with loose clothing comprised of soft, natural fabrics.
17. Love your skin. Some people with chronic hives have dry or sensitive skin. In order to keep skin moisturized, choose lotions that contain oatmeal, or search for products that contain ingredients like coconut oil or aloe vera.
18. Get rid of toxic products. Harsh face and body products that contain ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate and triclosan can aggravate the skin and potentially make hives worse. Take an inventory of all the products you use and research the ingredients.
19. Apply cold compresses. If you are not sensitive to cold temperatures or water, a cold compress can help decrease the pain, itching, and inflammation that comes along with hives. Consider a cool washcloth or cool bath the next time hives erupt.
20. Seek out support. Support is crucial regardless of what chronic condition you have. If you are having trouble finding support in your immediate circle, search for online support groups, chronic illness forums, or private social media group pages. You might be surprised by how many people are experiencing a similar journey as you!
21. Take up journaling. Journaling is a great way to document daily life and become aware of triggers. It is also ideal for releasing emotions and thoughts, helping relieve stress and anxiety often associated with hives.