Has your child broken out in an itchy rash? If so, it could be a case of hives. Fortunately, hives are usually harmless and temporary. Common symptoms of hives include slightly raised, pink or red areas on the skin; welts that occur alone, in a group, or connect over a large area; and skin swelling that lessens or goes away within minutes or hours.
The best remedy for hives is to try to avoid whatever triggers them, although identifying this is often difficult. One way to help identify your triggers is to keep a log of your child’s symptoms, including the day and time the hives occur and how long they last. You should also pay attention to any changes to your child’s regular environment that may be contributing to the problem, such as dust, animals or the outdoors.
According to member dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, many things can trigger hives, including:
- An allergic reaction to food or medication
- Infections, including colds, viruses, and strep
- Cold temperatures
- Scratching the skin
- Insect bites and stings
- Sun exposure
If your child has hives, dermatologists recommend the following tips to help care for your child at home:
- Consider using an over-the-counter oral antihistamine for children: This will help relieve the itch and discomfort. Always follow the directions on the label and use the correct dose.
- Apply a cool washcloth to the hives: This will bring additional relief to your child.
- Try to reduce scratching: Whenever possible, try to keep your child from scratching, as scratching may worsen the rash. One way to do this is to keep your child’s fingernails short. You can also consider applying an over-the-counter anti-itch cream with pramoxine or menthol to your child’s hives. Always use the product as directed.
- Bathe with lukewarm water: Bathe your child as normal, but make sure the water is lukewarm, not hot, and limit the bath to 10 minutes. You can also ease the itch by adding a product with colloidal oatmeal to your child’s bath water. Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser, and avoid bubble baths and scented lotions. After bathing, pat the child dry with a towel and apply a gentle moisturizing cream or lotion to damp skin.
- Maintain a comfortable environment for your child: In summer, air-conditioning may be preferred, and in winter, it is helpful to have a humidifier. You should also dress your child in comfortable clothes that are loose-fitting and 100% cotton. Cover the skin to prevent scratching, but make sure your child is kept cool to avoid overheating.
- Keep a log of your child’s symptoms: If a particular trigger is suspected, take note and avoid exposure. It may also be helpful to keep a diary of your child’s foods and medicines.
Hives can happen within minutes of exposure to the trigger or two hours later. If your child’s hives persist or continue to recur, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist. If your child’s hives seem to worsen or your child is experiencing more serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or vomiting, go to the emergency room immediately, as these symptoms can be more serious or even life-threatening.