Urticaria (Hives)

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-05-13 (EDT)


Causes Dietary Factors, Excessive Exercise, Stress, Infections, Environmental Allergies
See Also Dermatology / Skin Conditions, Food Reactions, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Books Books on Skin Diseases
Articles Articles on Dermatology / Skin Conditions

Urticaria or hives are pink to flesh-colured plaques that are non-pitting, and edematous. They can be either acute or chronic. Acute can occur at any age and lasts for less than 6 weeks, chronic hives tend to lasts longer.[1] 10-20% of people worldwide will develop an episode of urticaria or angioedema (swelling deeper in the tissue) in their lifetime, more commonly women. [2]

Naturopathic Assessment

The assessment of hives is typically made by observation of the skin.

Causal Factors

Hives are typically an allergic reaction to a substance. The assessment process is based on identifying the areas of susceptibility and the specific triggers or allergens for each person.


  • Extreme physical exercise can trigger an outbreak of hives, especially if a person is immune compromised.


  • Psychological stress can cause hives or can intensify the other causes.[5]
Hives allergic.jpg


  • Environmental triggers include tree and plant pollens and inhalants, insect bites, mold and animal dander.
  • Exposure to heat, cold, or sunlight can cause hives.[3]

Medical Interventions

  • Prescription Medications:
  • Urticaria can be an adverse reaction to many drugs. Common drugs known to cause urticaria are aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, narcotic painkillers, and antibiotics. [2]
  • Using inhaled corticosteroid drugs (as with COPD) may be implicated in Rash and other skin manifestations. [6]

Diagnostic Testing

Related Symptoms and Conditions


The symptoms of urticaria include:

  • Itchiness is common with urticaria, especially acute urticaria
  • The plaques are pink-to flesh-coloured, non-pitting and edematous. When you press the center of one it may turn white.
  • Hives can change shape, disappear or reappear within minutes or hours. Most hives disappear within 24 hours.
  • The plaques change in size and shape by peripheral extension, migrate and regress.
  • As old lesions resolve it is common for new lesions to evolve.
  • The most common location for hives include: trunk, upper arms or upper legs, hands and feet or face.
  • Swelling of the eyes, mouth, hands, feet, or genitals can sometimes occur with hives. This swelling, called angioedema, usually goes away within 24 hours, but it can be quite severe and life-threatening when swelling of the airway occurs.

Types of Urticaria[1]

  • Dermographism is the most common form of urticaria and occurs due to contact with furniture, bracelets, watch bands, towels or bedding. Lesions start within 1 -2 minutes of contact and can last upto 3 hours. The reaction starts with redness followed by edema; the redness regreses within an 1 hour, edema persists for upto 3 hours.
  • Cholinergic urticaria is a heat reflex urticaria which is characterized by pinpoint wheals surrounded by reflex redness. It is most commonly found on upper trunk and arms.[1]

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Urticaria is typically an acute disease.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • The first step of any treatment plan is to maintain a diary of symptoms tracking diet, activity level, stress and other outside influences that may be triggering a flare-up.
  • Take cool showers with chemical-free, natural soap.
  • Cool, moist compresses help speed healing.
  • Do not squeeze a hive or try to break it open.
  • Use only chemical-free personal care products on the skin.
  • Avoid alcohol or other chemicals that are drying or irritating to the skin.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
  • Choose natural fabrics that allow the skin to breathe.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Ensuring adequate sleep will assist in healing.

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for urticaria include:

Specialized Therapies

  • Myers cocktail may be helpful during acute flare-ups.


Hives typically resolve on their own, yet there are times when it is necessary to seek immediate naturopathic medical care such as:

  • If you are lightheaded, have tightness in the throat or having difficulty breathing or swallowing associated with your hives.
  • If your hives do not improve with general home care strategies within a couple of days.


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [2]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Pizzorno Joseph, Murray Michael, Joiner-Bey Herb 2002 The Clinician's Handbook of Natural Medicine Churchill Livingstone
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Nzeako UC (2010) Diagnosis and management of angioedema with abdominal involvement: A gastroenterology perspective. World J Gasteroenterol;16(39):4913-4921. PMID:20954277
  3. 3.0 3.1 Geller M (Jul 1989) Cold-induced cholinergic urticaria--case report. Ann Allergy.;63(1):29-30. PMID: 2662834.
  4. Food Science Department of The University of Guelph, [1]
  5. Traub M (1985) Dermatological diagnosis and natural therapeutics: an elementary manual. NCNM.
  6. Tashkin DP, Murray HE, Skeans M, Murray RP. (2004) Skin manifestations of inhaled corticosteroids in COPD patients: results from Lung Health Study II. Chest Journal ; 126(4): 1123-1133 PMID:15486373
  7. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul Richard, Barlow Kerry, Gilbert Cyndi, Gowan Matthew, Smith Fraser 2010 Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Vol 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs, CCNM Press, Toronto
  8. Boon Heather, Smith Michael 2004 The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs, Robert Rose, Toronto
  9. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  10. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth 1997, Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing