If you have ever had hives before, you know that they are no fun!

The medical term for hives is urticaria (ur-tih-CAR-ee-uh). It can be pretty alarming to get hives if you have never experienced them before. They come on suddenly and move around the body quickly. Hives are an inflammatory reaction that occurs when various irritants are either ingested or come into physical contact with the skin. They are rarely a medical emergency, however, if swelling occurs in the eyelids, lips or throat making it difficult to swallow or breath it would be time to seek medical attention immediately.


Symptoms of Hives

  • Sudden onset of raised, itchy bumps called ‘wheals’ (red or skin colored)
  • “Blanching” (center turns white when pressed)
  • May appear anywhere on the body; change shape, move around, disappear and reappear over short periods of time
  • Lasting from minutes to weeks or in some chronic cases, years

Common Irritants and Causes of Hives

poison ivy

  • Foods – shellfish, strawberries, citrus fruits, milk, eggs, peanuts
  • Medicines – certain antibiotics (especially sulfa and penicillin), aspirin, ibuprofen
  • Insect stings/ bites
  • Bacterial infections
  • Pet dander, Pollen
  • Plants – poison ivy and poison oak
  • Exposure to sun (solar urticaria), heat, cold, or water
  • Exercise, Stress
  • Chemicals (cleaning supplies, soaps, lotions, shampoos..)

As you can see from the list above, many things can cause a reaction of hives making it sometimes difficult to figure out the exact trigger, especially if it has a delayed onset.

Treating with Natural Medicine

Chinese Medicine views hives as a Wind Rash that invades the skin and meridians and is often accompanied by Heat or Cold. A combination of acupuncture, herbs and dietary therapy are used in the treatment hives. Acupuncture points are used to release the exterior and either clear heat or warm the channels. Cooling herbs (topically & internally) such as Honeysuckle, Forsythia, Chrysanthemum, and Mint are used to clear heat from the skin and relieve itching. Herbs such as cinnamon twig, angelica root, and ledebouriella root warm the body and release the exterior.

The Deeper Causes of Hives

Once the symptoms of itching and inflammation are addressed and relieved, we then take a closer look at what may have been the precipitating cause for the outbreak. This may involve keeping a food journal to identify and eliminate any food allergies and often taking a customized herbal formula. In cases of chronic (more than 6-8weeks) recurring hives outbreaks, there is often an underlying deficiency or an immune system dysfunction. Chinese medicine uses acupuncture, herbs, and dietary therapies to help correct these underlying imbalances. Regardless of the particular pattern of hives you may have, and whether it is an acute case or a more chronic one, Chinese medicine has a lot to offer both for immediate symptom relief as well as addressing the underlying cause of outbreaks.

If you or someone you know is experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms, give me a call to schedule an appointment. Having suffered the mystifying outbreaks of hives myself, I know how upsetting and maddening they can be. Don’t suffer needlessly any longer! My training in treating hives and other dermatological conditions can help you feel comfortable in your skin again.