Recurring Hives

Updated on September 12, 2008
I.C. asks from Washington, DC
13 answers

Hello all!

Last May, I had a miscarriage. About at the same time, I started having some hives, which became quite overwhealing. After a month of trying various creams and antihistamines, I ended up in the ER where I was administered a high dose of cortisoide, which I had to keep taking at lesser doses for at least 4 weeks, along with a mix of antihistamines. They also found out my Thyroid was off (sometimes this can launch some unnecessary auto-immune responses, like allergies and hives.) So I am currently taking Cyntroid for that. So I thought I was set, but about 3 weeks ago the whole hives came back. I took some cortisone for 6 days but the hives came back right away. After that I thought that I should try some more natural things, since cortisone on the long run is extremely damaging for the system, and since we would like to have #2. I held off for 2 weeks, took baking soda baths twice a day, put some creams and calamine lotions, tried some more natural medecine things, hoping this episode would resolve itself by itself (which is supposed to be the case). In the end I was completely covered with patches covering fully my back, my thighs and my belly. It was unbearable, so I went back on the cortisone. The dose I required this time is quite high and I am on it for at least one month.
For sure there is a link to stress, as me and my family are currently going through a whole lot of changes, as we are moving abroad in a few weeks. However, I can say that I am feeling good about what is coming up and do not feel too much pressure about the whole new life awaiting for us. I can link the second episode of hives to a lesser stress (an alarm going off in the middle of the night, which startled me), which can of shows the very low treashold to stress my body seems to have now.
In any cases, it is impossible for me to keep on using the cortisone, because of which I will not be able to conceive again. In addition, I would like to find a real long lasting solution for these hives, which I hope would not be now classified as chronic... HELP please!

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answers from Washington DC on

I have to disagree with the allergy testing. Your body is giving you a clear message. The skin is the largest organ of elimination in your body. So, there are plenty of natural remedies to be found for hives. Best to get to the cause of this rather than keep treating the symptoms and suppressing the outbreak with the cortisone. There are several homeopathic remedies that are used for hives and rashes. Acupuncture is a great modality for balancing the body, as well as clearing this issue. Especially if the practioner works in 5 element tradition. So, saying that, please feel free to contact me if you would like more details and info. about how to use more natural methods.

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answers from Washington DC on


I truly thought I was the only person who had gone and is going through this! First the background on me— when my husband deployed two years ago I began having hive outbreaks on the front of both of my shins. They would start in large patches and progressively get worse as the month progressed. They would worsen to the point that I would have a solid welt covering my shin all the way from the knee to the ankle. The itching was always worse right before my period began. The week of my period, the symptoms would start to subside and the hive would decrease in size. As the months progressed, I would sporadically get hives on my chest, stomach, and thighs. Those generally resolved within the cycle, but the shins were constant. As you know, the itching is unbearable at times.

These episodes of hives lasted a year and did not resolve until my husband returned from deployment. During this time, I saw my primary physician, two different Dermatologists, and an Allergist. I had blood test, skin biopsies, and the whole gamete of allergy testing. Everything was inconclusive in finding a “cause.” The topical medications the Dermatologist put me on only made the skin more “angry” and they really didn’t listen to the pattern of my breakouts. Their advice was, “don’t itch it.” I am well familiar with the side effects of high-dose prednisone and after one bout of it I refused to do that again. The Allergist was the most helpful because he actually listened to me. With him, I was able to determine that my symptoms were in fact related to my hormones. Going back through my history, he determined that going off birth control after my husband deployed and the added stress of the deployment caused the initial outbreaks. Unfortunately, my body is now hyper-sensitive and it doesn’t take much to throw me into another outbreak.

I was symptom free for almost a year when I had a miscarriage last February at 6-7 weeks gestation. One week later the hives started again. They did resolve within 3 months (thanks God!) with little intervention (strategies listed below). In late July, I became pregnant again and the hives started at 5 weeks gestation. They are isolated to my right shin and because I am pregnant there is little I can do about it at the moment.

The good news is there are some effective treatments. I will preface this paragraph with saying TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT THIS!! I recommend finding a good allergist. I’m not about sharing “medical advice” with people, but I hope my personal experience helps you find some answers as to what might help you.

(1) Find a good allergist! I cannot emphasize this enough. If for nothing more than to find someone that will listen to you and has had to deal with patients like us!
(2) Don’t scratch—as annoying as this advice is, it does irritate the skin and put you into an itch-scratch cycle. That is, the more you scratch, the more it itches.
(3) Avoid soaps. Soap is very harsh on the skin and strips it away of its natural oils. I only use Dove Sensitive Skin body wash and have changed to all dye-free and fragrance free laundry soap.
(4) Take warm, not hot, showers.
(5) Apply Eucerin calming crème immediately after leaving the shower to the affected areas. Also, apply Eucerin Original lotion (it’s not as heavy) as needed throughout the day. If it starts to itch, gently apply the crème and resist the urge to itch. This does help! Also, I did not find any added benefit to using the itch-relief crème. It actually seemed to irritate me more.
(6) Medications—this is where you need to talk to your doctor. After a dozen different ointments and crèmes, and at least another dozen antihistamines—what worked for me was taking one 24 hour Zyrtec in the morning, and one to two 10-mg Atarax and one 10-mg Singulair before bed. This combination really worked for me with no side effects that I can recall. FYI: The Atarax does make you a little drowsy so DO NOT let them put you on the 25-mg dose. It was originally prescribed for me to take one to two of the 25-mg before bed and if I didn’t have the weekend to sleep it off then it was so hard to pull myself out of bed and I was in a fog for hours and work!

As far as long-term solutions, my allergist did state that he has had women who had hives relieved from going on a low-dose birth control for 6-12 months to get their hormones back to normal. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be on a low-dose BC than prednisone any day! Unfortunately, I have not been in the situation to try this so I can’t say how effective it is.

This was probably way more information then you were looking for and it wasn’t all that natural, but these are the strategies I have used that have made episodes more bearable and decreased the overall time I had them. My issue now is that I am pregnant and I don’t want to take anything. So, for now it’s just the lotion bottle and me. I hope this helped. I wish you the best of luck and know that you are not crazy and you are not alone!

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answers from Washington DC on

My brother went through something similar. He was on two OTC medicines. I think they were Benedryl and Zyrtec). Can't remember off the top of my head. There were 3 that he kept switching out. He had symptoms just 'come on', and then had to take meds daily for about a year and a half. Then one day the symptoms just sort of went away. The ER dr. said that there was some combination of elements/chemicals that created the hives and even though his body wasn't exposed to them anymore, his immune system was still battling.
Have you spoken to an allergist? Perhaps they can recommend a specialist?



answers from Richmond on

I have to say that the story and advice Lauren W gave was very helpful for me. I'm in a similar boat as you. I never had hives before, but after giving birth a year ago, I broke out all over my legs and butt. It got worse then better then worse again. Definitely got worse with stress. Spraying cold water on my legs or sitting in cold water helped when it was really bad. But I would wake up in the middle of the night scratching, which caused sores. It cleared up for a few months on it's own and them came back just in time for summer. This time, it looked less like hives and more like ezcema, but still very itchy. Fortunately, it was just on my lower legs (although it looked so bad I didn't wear shorts or shirts all summer). A few weeks ago, I tried a UV light twice a day for 1 minute each treatment and it seemed to help and actually looked better than ever, but then the hives came again and were moving up my leg. I was very puzzled.

I've always assumed that it had something to do with horomones b/c it happened after I had the baby, so Laura W's post confirms it for me. Now that I'm thinking about it, the hives get worse around the time of my period and have cleared up again now that I'm done. And I didn't get my period back until May (after having the baby because I'm nursing), which was when the hives came back again. I'm sure it's because my horomones are out of wack.

Good luck. It's the most frustrating feeling itching all the time. It makes me crazy some days. I definitely feel for you.



answers from Washington DC on

Both my mother-in-law (59 yr old)and a co-worker (49 yr old) of mine suffer the same condition as you - chronic urticaria related to Hashimoto Thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid disease). They both say pressure from tight clothing, bras, etc. or having a massage make it worse (pressure urticaria). Heat and stress also make it worse. My MIL used to get outbreaks every few years, but the hives have become constant in recent years. My co-worker shared the following:

"It looks like my case. My body did not recognize my thyroid and it started attacking it, which caused that I took cortisone for a while and did not work when I finished taking them the hives came back. I started with the immune suppressor, Cochicine, in addition I took Singulair, Zyrtec, Allegra, acid reducer and Doxepin because the itching kept me awake all night. I took 18-20 pills a day. The medicine that helped the most was the Atarax which was given to me by a Johns Hopkins immunologist. I am not taking the immune suppressor anymore; however, I still l take Doxepin, Atarax and Singulair on a daily basis. Now I take 6 pills a day. My hives are under control; however the excessive heat will give me hives but not to the extend that I had them 4 years ago. I hope this helps."

My MIL also took Zyrtec and Allegra and tried Doxepin for a while, but she kept going back to steroids for quick fixes. We wish she would stop the steroids because she also has osteoporosis. Several months ago she began taking low-dose aspirin for other reasons and she swears it cured her hives, but it might be coincidence.

I researched the condition for them and came across a study from Italy where removal of a patient's thyroid cured her hives. It's drastic, but so is the suffering from these hives. Good luck to you.



answers from Danville on

While I don't deal with hives, my mother-in-law does, and figured out that it was stress related as well, as well as occuring when she ate certain foods. Every time she eats anything containing MSG, hives spread across her face and chest, and are much worse when she is under stress and eating those foods. I'm wondering what sorts of foods you eat. We now make everything from scratch as MSG is also a migraine trigger for my dh, and most boxed or canned foods contain MSG (monosodium glutamate on the nutrition label). Even though you mention you aren't stressed, I realized after we tried for #2 that, even though I didn't realize it at the time, I was extremely stressed. Dh had started a new job a few months before, we were looking for a house, had a 10 month old baby, etc, etc. I think just as with allergies, you are going to have to find your source of stress causing the hives, and eliminate it. I do feel seeing an allergist is a beneficial thing to do, as you've tried some natural things and they didn't work. An allergist can tell you what could be causing the problem, and then it can be removed from your environment. Good luck, and I hope you'll have #2 soon!



answers from Charlottesville on

Maybe you've already tried this, but Allegra helped me. I switched to Claritin once I was pregnant and that also helped. I was never given a reason or tested for what caused the hives to break out all over my body (Army docs :P). Stress? Physical pressure (it would start on my waist band) I kept breaking out in hives on a daily basis for 2 months and it progressively got worst. Finally, I took some pictures of them and took them to the clinic. That's when they prescribed me Allegra. I'd take it as soon as I felt them coming on. After 4-5 months, I didn't have anymore breakouts. I still keep Claritin on hand and have had to use it once a year or so. That's my story. Hope it helps. I know how frustrating hives can be. Best of luck to you!



answers from Washington DC on

I realize that this sounds strange, but are you pregnant? My niece was allergic to the amniotic fluid for most of her pregnancy. If not, look at dairy, wheat and other foods. Food allergies are common causes for hives. Also, try to use as much organic as you can; you would be surprised at how many chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics can accumulate from the food that is sold.



answers from Washington DC on

I had hellish hives for 12 years, went through all kinds of testing, saw specialist after specialist. It turned out to be a cow's milk allergy, which not a single one of the eight specialists I saw ever mentioned to me as a possibility! Turns out dairy allergy is the most common cause of hives! I figured it out by accident-- I stopped the dairy because I was breastfeeding my son and he seemed to be having gas.

It was hard to pin down, because dairy is in all sorts of things, and the hives appear 12-24 hours after consumption. Confusing things, they also did appear to be hormonal-- they appeared after I started taking the pill, and did seem to be worse before my period, and I have dermographia-- I get welts if something irritates my skin, too. And my thyroid is "borderline."

I miss the cheese, but I am so so happy and grateful to have them gone! I would suggest giving up dairy for a week to see if it helps.

... ps, I did have allergy testing, but that didn't detect it. Which doesn't surprise me, sticking a piece of something under the skin is different than eating it!



answers from Washington DC on

I'll keep this brief, 'cause I have no idea what could help. I just have questions you can ask yourself in this search:
What second opinions have you investigated from specialists and general dr., obgyn (is a hormone still out of balance?), maybe it's a spiritual link - if the miscarriage triggered the first one, find out if there is still some grief that you're in denial for... Sometimes an affirmation directed to your skin will reveal some insight to the problem. Best wishes and keep being your best advocate!



answers from Washington DC on

Well, you seem to be going through a lot right now. Just for the record, I practice homeopathy and not all natural products are equal, many are fake. Unfortunately you can't go into any health food store and pick up what looks good, many can actually cause more harm than good. Hives can be from allergies, damaged liver, chemicals, stress you name it. In any case it is a cry for help from your body saying something needs to be changed. You already know stress is a big factor, so how are you coping with that? Is is effective or are you in need of some stress management help? Second thing is hormones. Hormones are so important I can't even tell you, as I have struggled with them myself. A hormone profile is the best step, but be aware that they don't count testosterone even though it is equally as important as estrogen because there is no range currently accepted as normal in women. Testosterone, is extremely vital in the first stages of pregnancy and if it is off a little can cause a miscarriage, so some good quality progesterone plant creams may be your best bet. Chemicals such as chlorine can cause your body to over produce estrogens and reek havoc on all your systems, so maybe a good quality cleansing regime will help to reset your endocrine system along with purging toxins. There are so many variables I can't even go into them right now. Please feel free to call me at 540 28-3378 if you want to talk in depth, I should be here the rest of the afternoon and tomorrow. We could maybe work some things out or you could see a naturopathic doctor who could give you some long lasting solutions.



answers from Norfolk on

Has your doctor suggested allergy testing as well? Stress can play into allergies too and reduce the threshold for what will bother you.

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