Working with Chronic Hives

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: April 2022

Chronic hives affect many parts of your life. This includes your professional life and the workplace. Unpredictable itchiness and swelling can make it hard to sleep and work. Visible symptoms can also lead to feelings of embarrassment and isolation at work.

These issues can make work seem unbearable. But there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of chronic hives on your work. For example, you may benefit from modifying your work environment and talking to coworkers you trust.

How does chronic hives affect working?

Symptoms of chronic hives affect your work and career in many ways. This includes both physical and mental aspects of chronic hives. For example, chronic hives can affect your work by:1

  • Interfering with sleep and causing fatigue during the day
  • Making it hard to focus on work because of pain or itchiness
  • Causing embarrassment or shame because of visible hives
  • Causing absences because of doctor’s appointments

These can combine to affect your productivity and emotional health at work. On many days, it may feel impossible to continue working. It often seems easier to avoid certain jobs altogether. But this can limit career opportunities and affect your overall well-being.1

How can I reduce the impact of chronic hives in the workplace?

You have a legal right to a safe work environment that fits your needs. There are many things you and your employer can do to make work better for you. This includes workplace modifications that can reduce the impact of chronic hives.

Some ways to manage chronic hives in the workplace include:2

  • Reducing exposure to possible workplace triggers, such as extreme temperatures and sunlight
  • Tracking possible workplace triggers in a journal
  • Wearing comfortable and loose-fitting clothing
  • Keeping extra medicine at work
  • Knowing your company’s sick leave policy

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for you. This means they must modify your work environment to help you to do your job. Talk to your employer or HR department about workplace accommodations that can help you. This can be as simple as moving your desk away from sunlight or modifying your uniform.3

You can also manage chronic hives by reducing work-related stress. Stress can make hives and itchiness worse. This often leads to a cycle of symptoms and stress making each other worse. Stress-relieving activities can help prevent this from happening. Yoga, mindfulness programs, and other activities can help you manage stress at work.1

What should I tell my coworkers about chronic hives?

You may not want to share health information with your coworkers or employer. It is normal to want to keep that information private. And you may be afraid that coworkers may assume things about your condition.1

However, you may benefit from talking to a coworker or supervisor you trust. They can help support you in the workplace. Some things you may want to tell them include:

  • How your condition affects you in the workplace
  • How they can advocate for you at work
  • How they can help in emergency situations like anaphylaxis

If you do not feel comfortable talking to coworkers, consider talking to other people you trust. This includes friends, family, and community members. Therapists or people in support groups may be especially helpful.

Talking about your experiences can help you overcome fears or anxieties you have. It can also help you develop strategies to manage chronic hives at work.

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