Tips to Reduce Physical Discomfort

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Symptoms of chronic hives often cause significant physical discomfort. This discomfort can interfere with your daily activities, work, school, and sleep. In addition to medicine, there are home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) products that might help reduce physical discomfort.

Some options to try include applying cold temperature or anti-itch lotions to your hives. These products are typically safe and easy to use. Stress-reducing techniques may also reduce hives and help you cope with symptoms.

Cold therapy

For some, cold therapy is a fast and easy way to briefly relieve itchiness. It works by limiting blood flow to inflamed areas. This can help reduce swelling, inflammation, and itchiness. Keeping your home relatively cool and avoiding extreme heat may help reduce discomfort.1–3

You can also apply cold therapy directly to your body. Depending on the location and size of your hives, you can do this in different ways. Some ways to apply cold include:3

  • Ice packs or plastic bags of ice wrapped in cloth
  • Cold, damp cloths
  • Cool baths or showers

However, cold temperatures trigger hives for some people. If you have this type of hives (cold urticaria), do not use these techniques.4

Anti-itch treatments

Many lotions and OTC products can relieve itchiness. However, these will not actually treat your hives. Antihistamines are typically the most effective treatment for hives. But anti-itch products are helpful to reduce discomfort.3,4

One remedy that works for many people is an oatmeal bath. The oils in oats may reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness. Dissolve colloidal oatmeal in a lukewarm bath and bathe for 30 minutes.3,4

Other skincare products that may reduce itchiness include:4

  • Aloe vera gels
  • Moisturizers with coconut oil, tea tree oil, or other plant-based oils
  • Moisturizers that are free of additives, fragrances, and perfumes
  • Skin creams with pramoxine
  • Baking soda or Epsom salts in a lukewarm bath

Talk to your doctor about which OTC product is best for you. Some products can irritate your skin and will not help relieve your symptoms.

Relaxation techniques

Stress can directly trigger your hives and worsen your itchiness. Reducing stress is an important part of managing discomfort. Stress-reducing techniques can also help you cope with the emotional burden of symptoms. If you want to try some stress-reducing methods, consider these options:5-8

  • Cognitive behavioral therapyTalk therapy that helps you respond to challenge situations better
  • Relaxation techniques – Methods that decrease the effects of stress, such as imagery, deep breathing, and yoga
  • Mindfulness – Meditation that focuses on awareness of your senses in the moment
  • Biofeedback – Technique to learn to control your body functions
  • Acupuncture – Inserting thin needles through the skin at strategic points

These techniques might help to reduce stress and improve quality of life for many people. However, not all therapies work for everyone.9

Loose clothing

Rough fabrics and tight clothing can irritate your skin and trigger hives. For many people with chronic hives, symptoms are worse where clothing compresses the skin. Wearing loose-fitting, cotton clothes can prevent this from happening.3

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