Hives In Children - Causes, Symptoms, And Natural Remedies

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Six-year-old Danny went to a party where he ate a shellfish dish. He didn’t eat a lot, but a few minutes later there were hives on his body. Ten-year-old Sandra also gets hives every time she is nervous about something.

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Whatever might be the reason for getting them, hives are not a pleasant or happy sight to see. MomJunction tells you about what causes urticaria or hives in kids, what the symptoms are, and how to treat them.

Hives – What Are They And How Do They Look?

Hives or urticaria are reddish-pink rashes or patches that appear anywhere on the skin and can be triggered by a number of factors. These red welts are usually the skin’s reaction to an allergen such as an infection, foods, pollen, medicines, etc. In most cases, these hives disappear after a while.

Hives can be itchy, painful, and even burn. In some cases, the child may feel nothing. Hives that go away in a few days or less than a week are referred to as acute hives. Those that need more than six weeks to disappear are called chronic hives. Hives caused due to stress on the skin or exposure of the skin to external elements such as extreme cold or heat are referred to as physical urticaria.

[ Read: Skin Rashes In Children ]

Hives are usually not contagious unless they are caused by an infectious virus or bacteria. Unless they are chronic, hives occur only when triggered and last no more than 24 hours. On a positive note, hives do not leave any trace of their existence – they don’t leave any scars or bruises on the skin.

Classification of Urticaria

The simplest classification of urticaria has two types – acute and chronic. A wider classification helps you learn about physical or inducible urticaria.

  • Dermatographic urticaria, also known as skin writing
  • Papular urticaria, a manifestation of chronic papules caused due to hypersensitivity to insect, especially mosquito bites
  • Cold urticaria, caused when the skin is exposed to something extremely cold or cold weather
  • Cholinergic urticaria caused due to sweating
  • Contact urticaria, which results in rashes, occurs when the person comes into contact with a substance that triggers a breakout of hives
  • Delayed pressure urticaria is when weals appear on the skin due to the pressure on the skin, although after a delay of four to six hours
  • Solar urticaria is when you get hives due to sunlight

[ Read: Papular Urticaria In Children ]

Causes Of Hives In Children

So why do children get hives?

Hives are more often than not an allergic reaction. Red, swollen bumps on the skin appear when the blood cells react to an allergen and release a chemical called histamine that causes the blood vessels under the skin to leak. This causes reddish bumps on the skin. Allergens that can cause hives include:

  • Foods such as eggs, shellfish, peanuts, milk
  • Medications and injections or allergy shots
  • Pollen
  • Interaction with pets or other animals can trigger an allergic reaction
  • Insect bites, stings
  • Exposure to sunlight or extremely cold weather

[ Read: Food Allergies In Children ]

If hives are not caused due to an allergen, it can be caused due to:

  • A bacterial or viral infection (probably the commonest cause in children)
  • Exercise – usually due to the sweating after exercise
  • Contact with chemicals
  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive pressure on the skin – from sitting in one position for a long time, carrying heavy weights such as a backpack over the shoulder, etc. you get hives from stress? Yes, some kids and even adults get hives when they are stressed or anxious. In very rare cases, hives caused due to an allergic reaction may lead to an anaphylactic shock, which warrants immediate medical attention.

In case your child has a severe or chronic case of hives, let him or her carry a shot of epinephrine to deal with life-threatening attacks.

Signs And Symptoms Of Hives In Children

Classic symptoms of hives include:

  • Reddish raised bumps or welts on the skin, sometimes with a pale center
  • Hives can appear in clusters in one place or different places on the skin.
  • The size of hives varies depending on various factors – you can have hives measuring just a few millimeters to some as big as a large plate
  • Do hives itch? Yes, these red welts can be itchy or burning or painful in some cases
  • Puffiness and swelling of the eyes, feet, hands, throat, lips, and even genitals in case the child also has angioedema

In case of severe hives and anaphylactic shock, the child will have trouble breathing, may feel dizzy and even lose consciousness.

[ Read: How To Treat Insect Bites In Children ]

Diagnosis of Hives

A look at the child’s skin is often enough to determine that he or she has hives. But a thorough physical examination and review of the child’s medical history are also done to determine the exact cause of hives. If hives are caused due to fever, then there is an underlying medical condition to take care of. The medical history of the family is also checked for possible things that the child may be allergic to.

In case of chronic hives, the doctor may ask you to keep a record of what the child is eating, drinking, and getting exposed to, to determine the cause of the breakout. Blood tests, allergy test, and other diagnostic tests may be recommended to check for possible infection in the body.

The doctor may also expose the child’s skin to sunlight, frigid objects, or place heavy objects on the thighs to see if that would cause hives.

How To Treat Hives In Children

The parent must first determine if the child has swollen lips or difficulty in breathing or is restless for no apparent reason since there may be some swelling in the airways that may suffocate and choke the child. If such symptom is suspected, the child needs to be taken to the doctor or the nearest hospitals emergency medical services immediately.

For chronic hives, your doctor may prescribe a mild antihistamine. Depending on the severity of the condition, the doctor may prescribe a stronger antihistamine or a combination of drugs. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe a steroid for five days (a course) to bring the hives down.

Remember that not all medications work for all. So if one course of treatment doesn’t work for your kid, the doctor may try another.

[ Read: Viral Infection In Children ]

Managing Hives At Home

The best way to deal with hives is to try and prevent them. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when caring for children with hives.

  • As mentioned above, if hives are the result of an allergic reaction, then the first thing to do is remove the allergen. So don’t give the child food he or she is allergic to.
  • Avoid using any soaps or bath products that are harsh on the skin. Stick to organic soaps that have no side effects. Sometimes, frequent bathing helps in reducing the itching and scratching.
  • Tell the child not to scratch or rub the hives. Rubbing and applying pressure is the most common cause of urticaria in children.
  • As constant pressure should not be applied avoid wearing tight clothes or placing weights on the body.
  • If temperature or weather leads to a breakout or hives in the child, don’t let the child go out alone. Even if he does, make sure he carries an auto-injector of epinephrine.
  • If sunlight is the reason for hives in the kid, ensure that he or she wears sunscreen and covers the skin with protective clothing.
  • If you suspect that medication is causing hives, inform your doctor and pharmacist about it.

In addition to these home care tips, a few of these natural or herbal remedies might help too.

Natural Remedies For Hives In Kids

Here are some ways to ease or alleviate the hives in children.

  1. Cold compress is an excellent topical remedy to deal with hives. Tightly pack ice cubes in a cloth and apply on the affected areas to reduce swelling, burning, or itching sensation.
  1. Apple cider vinegar has antihistamine properties that help in reducing the inflammation quickly and also restoring the overall skin health of the child.
  1. Baking soda is anti-inflammatory and is one of the most popular home remedies for hives. Add a cup of baking soda to a tub of warm water and mix it well. Let the kid soak in it for at least 20-30 minutes. You can also apply a paste of baking soda and water on the affected areas.
  1. Ginger is like a wonder drug when it comes to healing hives. It is an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory, and attacks the genes and enzymes triggering the inflammation.
  1. Oatmeal also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the itching and irritation caused by hives on the skin.
  1. Turmeric is an antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory agent as well. It is a natural antihistamine and an effective antioxidant used for treating a variety of skin disorders including hives.
  1. Aloe vera‘s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties can alleviate hives. Apply aloe vera gel on the affected areas and leave it for 15 minutes. Drinking aloe vera juice every day can also help in fighting hives.
  1. Nettle is another natural antihistamine and has astringent properties, making it a great herbal remedy for hives. Drinking nettle green tea twice a day or taking nettle extract capsules every day can help manage hives better.
  1. Basil or Tulsi can also help fight hives. It helps in fighting the infection and reducing itchiness. Crush the basil leaves and apply the extract on the affected areas, or boil water with basil leaves and apply that on the affected area for relief.
  1. Witch hazel is an astringent you can apply topically on the hives, to reduce the inflammation and itching sensation.

[ Read: Home Remedies To Treat Allergies In Children ]

In addition to these, you can also try using cream of tartar, calamine lotion, butterbur, and maybe even homeopathic medicines to treat hives in the child. But before you try any of these, make sure that you consult your physician about it, to prevent any side effects. Also, make sure that none of the herbal or natural ingredients you use are triggers for an allergic reaction in the kid.

Have any tips that make dealing with hives easier for parents? Tell us about them here.

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Dr. Mukesh Sanklecha

Dr. Mukesh Sanklecha holds a DNB and is a consultant pediatrician at Bombay Hospital Institute Of Medical Sciences, Mumbai. He also runs a private practice at Mukesh Sanklecha Clinic. With over 27 years of experience, he specializes in infant infections, infant health, congenital diseases, developmental screening, and newborn care.

Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate the latest advancements in the field of dentistry into her practice. Dr. Shah's deep interest in the well-being of babies and children... more