Hives or Urticaria, is an allergic reaction anywhere on the skin that presents with red, itchy, often raised, welts that vary in size from a half of a centimeter to a few centimeters. Occasionally it is accompanied by swelling in the lips, eyelids, and the throat.

When acute, hives are a common but severe skin reaction caused by known allergens in foods, pollens, bee venom, medications, heat or cold exposure, sunlight, and exercise. Often Western medicine treats it with antihistamines, steroids and bronchodilators (if swelling in the lungs and throat are accompanying symptoms). The majority of cases of hives will run their course in 24 – 48 hrs. More rarely, acute attacks may take a week to a few weeks to resolve.

In chronic cases, defined by hives lasting more then 6 weeks, the causes become less clear. Stress, hormones, parasites, infections, autoimmune diseases (thyroiditis, Type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis) and chemical exposure can sometimes be the hidden culprits but are not always present. Treatment is similar to acute cases with an emphasis on finding the hidden causes and limiting exposure to them.

Traditional Chinese Medicine describes hives as “wind heat toxins manifesting in the skin”. Multiple agents and issues cause hives and typically, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, moxa, lifestyle counseling, and diet therapy are used to treat them. Acupuncture, moxa, and herbs address the acute signs and symptoms, like itching and wheals, and can be surprisingly effective. As a result, these modalities help resolve cases of acute hives more quickly.

Diet therapy and lifestyle counseling are used to address the hidden sources that help perpetuate a chronic reaction. This long-term approach reduces the frequency and severity of flare-ups. The time frame for the total course of treatment will vary based what a person is reacting to and their ability to avoid it, autoimmune issues, metabolism, and overall health.

Traditional Chinese medicine is a great treatment option for hives and is well worth considering if you suffer with this problem. Contact me and we can figure out a solution!