If you are experiencing hives while breastfeeding, you may fear transferring them to your babies. Hives commonly occur as rash-like bumps on the skin that are itchy and reddish in appearance. In addition, they may appear when the body reacts to an allergen.
Hives are mostly treated with antihistamine drugs; however, they may affect your baby since the drug passes into the breast milk. Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor about the safety of antihistamines and the right way of using them before you adopt the treatment.
Read about the causes of hives, their symptoms, diagnosis, and the treatment options for nursing mothers.
What Are Hives?
Your body’s reaction to an allergen can trigger hives. Nettle rash and urticaria, are other popular names for hives. It causes your skin to break out in red and itchy rashes that look like little bumps on your skin. If you have hives, you will experience an itching and stinging or burning sensation.
Hives can appear anywhere on your body, including your face, lips, arms, throat and even ears. The rashes may be as small as a regular eraser to as big as a meal plate. Sometimes, multiple rashes can join to form a big patch or plaque (1).
What Causes Hives?
When your body reacts against an allergen, it produces the protein histamine as well as certain other chemicals. As your body releases histamine, the blood vessels in your skin leak blood plasma. It could cause swelling, itching and rashes.
Here are some of the most common causes of hives during breastfeeding:
- Drugs like aspirin, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, high blood pressure drugs or painkillers such as codeine may also cause hives.
- Bites by insects and bugs
- Animal dander especially from cats
- A food allergy caused by the consumption of nuts, eggs, fish, milk, chocolate, berries, shellfish and more. Foods that contain additives and preservatives may also trigger hives.
Sometimes, you may suffer from hives when your skin reacts to the following:
- Excessive sweating
- Stress, especially emotional stress
- An infection, especially mononucleosis
- An excess of exercising
- Exposure to extreme cold or too much sun
- Illness, including lupus, other autoimmune diseases, and leukemia
What Are The Symptoms Of Hives?
Some common symptoms of hives include the following:
- Appearance of red or skin-colored welts with defined edges.
- Plaques that enlarge, spread, and join to form larger areas of flat rashes.
- You know you have hives when you press the center of a plaque, and it turns white.
How To Diagnose Hives?
A doctor can diagnose hives during a physical examination. They may enquire about any history of allergies you have had. They may advise a skin and blood test to identify the exact cause of hives.
When To Seek Medical Help?
You should seek immediate medical help if you experience
- Inflammation in your throat, face or tongue
- Infected bumps
- Hives or swelling lasting more than a week
- Swelling in eyes and lips
Treating Hives While Breastfeeding
Antihistamine drugs are one of the most common ways to treat a case of hives, but it is not the choice of treatment when you are breastfeeding. Antihistamines drugs can enter your bloodstream, permeate your breast milk and harm your baby. If you have contracted hives and are also breastfeeding, do not panic yet. Here is how you can start the treatment for hives while breastfeeding (2):
- Speak to your doctor the moment you notice the rashes. Make sure you inform your doctor that you are breastfeeding your baby. Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines that pass in the breast milk in minimal amounts. Discuss the potential effects the medication may cause you or your baby. Take it as soon as you feed your baby, as it will reduce your baby’s chances of exposure to the same.
- Check with your doctor if they can identify a specific allergen that triggered hives. Try and avoid exposure to the same to minimize further risk.
- Try using a cold compress that will soothe the itching or burning sensation due to hives.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes and hot showers while you are suffering from hives.
Hives are usually caused by pollens, allergies, or insect bites. The most common treatment option for hives is antihistamine drugs. However, the possibility of the drug components permeating the breastmilk and reaching the baby is high while breastfeeding, and hence you should try alternative remedial measures. Consult your doctor immediately if you are concerned about symptoms such as breathlessness, fainting, or are experiencing discomfort. Also, do not stress yourself during this situation as it might aggravate the condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long do postpartum hives last?
Most hives may resolve in a few hours or a day, but some may continue for weeks or even months (6).
2. Why is my body so itchy after pregnancy?
Skin problems that occur during pregnancy may last for certain periods after childbirth. Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) rashes may occur either in the later stages of pregnancy or shortly after childbirth. It usually affects the breasts, upper thighs, and arms (7).
- What causes hives?
- Hives (Urticaria) and Swelling (Angiodema).
- Hives (Urticaria).
- Miranda So et al.; (2010); Safety of antihistamines during pregnancy and lactation.
- Hives / Urticaria.
- Silonie Sachdeva; (2008); THE DERMATOSES OF PREGNANCY.