Hives: Causes & Natural Remedies

A woman scratching hives on the back of her shoulder

What are Hives?

Hives are itchy bumps on skin that can be red, pink, brown or the same color as your skin. There are two categories of hives: chronic and acute. Acute hives are usually triggered by something specific, such as an allergy, and do not last longer than six weeks. Chronic hives are any hives that last longer than six weeks and do not have a clear cause. 1 Chronic hives are especially common in women between the ages of 20 and 40. 2

Common Causes of Acute Hives

  • Allergies
  • Reaction to an environmental irritant
  • Sunlight
  • Insect bites
  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Significant change in temperature
  • Underlying health issues

Natural Remedies for Hives

The following natural remedies may help to relieve the symptoms of hives, but keep in mind that it is important to identify and remove the cause of your hives before suppressing the symptoms. If you do not know the cause of your hives, the symptoms are likely to continue to return.

Oatmeal Bath

Taking a bath with oatmeal may help to reduce the discomfort of hives and other skin conditions. 3 Simply dissolve one cup of fine-ground oatmeal in a warm bath, then soak in it for at least 20 minutes. If you have never used oatmeal in skincare before, do a test patch on your skin before trying an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal is very gentle and does not often cause a negative reaction, but all bodies are different, and you should always test first.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel contains natural tannins and antioxidants, which can help to relieve the inflammation and irritation caused by hives. 4 5 6 You can use a store-bought witch hazel solution or make your own by boiling 5 to 10 grams of witch hazel bark in a cup of water, then straining the bark out of the liquid. 7 Apply witch hazel directly to your hives and allow it to sit for 15–20 minutes before rinsing it off.

Cold Compress

A simple cold compress may help to reduce itching caused by hives. Put some ice cubes in a plastic bag and seal it, then place the bag directly on your skin where the discomfort is worse. If this is too cold, place a clean washcloth or towel between your skin and the cold compress. Remove ice after 10 minutes to avoid damaging skin.

*If you have any conditions that limit your sense of touch or circulation, be very cautious using ice and heat, as those areas respond differently to temperature.

Elimination Diet

If you are not sure what is causing your hives, it might be helpful to try an elimination diet while keeping a food and environmental journal in order to identify or rule out any potential allergies. In an elimination diet, you will remove various foods from your diet for a specified period of time and then gradually reintroduce them one at a time. Monitor your symptoms as you go to determine whether any particular food seems to correlate with your hives.

A naturopathic doctor can help you plan and complete an elimination diet safely and work with you to identify the root cause of your hives.


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