Hives, also known as urticaria, are extremely itchy raised red or white welts on the skin. The size varies from small (goose-bump or pimple sized) to large (covering large areas of the body). They may be present for only a few minutes, or persist for several days.


Itchy raised red or white welts on the skin


Hives are often an allergic reaction to something you have eaten, touched or inhaled. In the case of allergy, the body releases a chemical called histamine to attack the alleged ‘bad’ substance – hives develop in response to the high histamine level. Allergens that most commonly provoke hives include strawberries, fish, nuts, drugs such as penicillin and aspirin, and various food additives, emulsifiers, flavourings or preservatives.

Some people develop hives in response to stress, insect bites, extreme temperatures, or pressure on the skin (e.g. from tight clothes).

Infectious organisms such as Hepatitis B virus, Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of glandular fever), Candida and a variety of bacteria have also been associated with hives.

Natural Therapies

To relieve itching, apply a soothing lotion or cream such as chickweed or nettle, to the area – a mild case of hives will often disappear after a few hours.

High doses of vitamin C may reduce severity of symptoms of allergic reations
Vitamin B complex is indicated to help your body cope with stress
Nettle tea – when cool, bathe itchy area. Can also be drunk

Lifestyle Factors

Take steps to reduce stress, anxiety and tension and improve your overall health. Adequate rest and sensible levels of exercise are essential.

Wear loose comfortable clothing when you have hives – the pressure of tight clothes or belts when your body is in a hyper-sensitive state may lead to more hives.


To pinpoint the cause of a food allergy, it may be helpful to keep a diary to record the link between the foods eaten and the allergic reaction.

If you are prone to allergies, taking a daily vitamin C supplement with bioflavonoids may help to reduce your sensitivity.

Important Notes

Consult your health care professional if:

You have recurring bouts of hives lasting a month or more
You develop hives after a blood transfusion
You develop hives following a bee or wasp sting – especially if accompanied by dry throat, cough, nausea, dizziness or difficulty in breathing
You develop hives after taking medication
Antihistamine tablets may be required for longer lasting or more severe cases of hives

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