Does your baby suffer from those itchy red welts? Hives are common in children. They are actually symptoms of a dermatological condition known as urticaria.
In this post I want to answer several questions that people have about hives that come and go in babies. Herein is a comprehensive account on all you need to know about chronic hives in children.
What are hives?
Hives manifest as swollen, pale and bumpy welts or patches on the skin.
They often appear suddenly. Hives can appear anywhere on the body including the face, tongue, lips, ears, torso and throat.
Some of the symptoms may include itching, stinging or a burning sensation on the affected areas (source).
This reaction occurs after your body releases histamine; a naturally occurring substance that causes the swelling and itching.
What are the causes of hives?
In order for you to properly understand the causes of hives that come and go in babies, you must know about the several types of this condition:
- Acute urticaria
- Chronic urticaria
- Physical urticaria
Acute urticaria refers to hives that last less than 6 weeks. The most common causes of these types of hives are certain foods, certain medication, latex, insect bites or stings and several infections.
For example, your baby could develop hives in reaction to being stung or bitten. Papular urticaria is a common reaction to insect bites (more common in children than in adults). But despite its name, papular urticaria is not a true urticaria, and it usually goes away on its own.
Some drugs can also cause acute urticaria. The common drugs that are known to cause hives include aspirin, NSAIDs, high blood pressure drugs and opioid drugs like codeine.
Chronic urticaria refers to the hives that last for more than 6 weeks. The exact causes of these kinds of hives are more difficult to pinpoint. Sometimes the causes may be similar to those of acute urticaria.
In other instances, they may include auto-immune diseases, chronic infections, malignancy and hormonal disorders. These are the types of hives that come and go (source).
Physical urticaria is hives that are formed when your skin is directly stimulated. Stimulation of your skin may include heat or cold application, excessive exposure to the sun, prolonged vibration, sweating, exercise and pressure. A sudden change in temperature can also cause hives.
These types of hives often appear on the specific spots where your skin is stimulated and will rarely manifest anywhere else.
Dermatographism refers to hives that appear after you scratch or stroke your skin firmly. These forms of hives commonly appear alongside the other types of hives.
Do hives go away on their own?
The effects of hives can last anywhere from a few hours to several months.
But according to Dr. Deborah Wiancek in the interview How to Treat Hives with Naturopathy?, hives that come and go don’t go away without proper treatment:
Hives generally do not go away on their own. Hives are due to a problem with your immune system and left untreated can cause autoimmune type problems.”
In some cases, the hives will go away naturally without treatment. The symptoms may resolve spontaneously after several weeks but there is always the likelihood that they may recur.
Over 50% of urticaria patients will undergo remission within one year.
A baby sometimes get hives when he has a cold or other viral or bacterial infection. These hives usually last for about a week before going away on their own.
The importance of investigating the causes of hives
The most important reason why you should investigate the causes of hives is the possibility of developing anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a very severe allergic reaction. This life-threatening condition causes swelling on the throat leading to breathing problems and possible suffocation. Other symptoms include coughing; wheezing and fainting.
If your baby experiences any of the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately.
A baby’s respiratory system is very tiny. Be aware that even a small amount of swelling can make it difficult for a baby to breathe.
Although it is quite rare, determining the causes of hives and eliminating the possible allergens greatly reduces your chances of developing anaphylactic shock (source). It is better to be safe than a statistic.
Additionally, in some sufferers, each subsequent attack of hives may become more severe.
How to treat chronic hives in children?
If your child has chronic hives, you should consult your doctor. Keeping a daily record of activities and what your child eats will help to find out the possible triggers of hives.
As I mentioned earlier, hives are not conditions on their own but rather symptoms of an underlying condition. If your baby has hives that come and go, you must identify and avoid triggers as much as possible. In almost all the cases, the underlying factor is usually an allergic reaction. Your baby may be allergic to a substance (such as pollen) or a food.
One of the first steps in the treatment of hives is a change in diet: avoid or eliminate all possible triggers from your child’s food list.
The common foods that should be avoided are eggs, cow milk, peanuts, shellfish, certain berries and additives.
Histamine, the chemical responsible for allergic reactions is also present in certain foods. According to chronichives.com, this is due to the activity of microbial enzymes on the amino acid histidine (source).
It is therefore advisable to exclude foods high in histamine including chocolate, cheese, wheat, buttermilk, processed meats, eggnog and soy beans.
Essential fatty acids particularly omega-3 fatty acids are effective in treating hives. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. The foods rich in these fatty acids include walnuts, flaxseeds, cod, salmon and halibut.
Taking vitamin C can also help with the allergic reaction. Choose natural vitamin C in dissolving tablets for babies.
Essential oils for hives that come and go in babies
Several essential oils can also help with the inflammation and itchiness. They include chamomile, tea tree, peppermint and lavender essential oils. (source)
The essential oils that are the most appropriate for children are lavender, Roman chamomile, tea tree and peppermint.
According to Valerie Ann Worwood in The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, lavender and chamomile are safe for babies.
You can mix a few drops of either organic lavender oil or roman chamomile essential oil with virgin coconut oil, and apply it on skin.
Also read this page that explains how to use essential oils for hives.
It’s very important to use caution when beginning to use essential oils with a baby. Essential oils are very potent; add only one or two drops to coconut oil for massage. Always perform a patch test on your baby’s skin and never used undiluted essential oil directly on baby’s skin, especially close to the face. It can burn and cause irritation.
Other tips for chronic hives in babies
Hives are usually unpleasant but relatively harmless in most cases. If the hives feel itchy, the doctor may recommend an antihistamine medicine to block the release of histamine.
You can also alleviate some of the symptoms by doing these two things:
- Dress your baby in loose clothing.
- Bath your baby in luke-warm water (source). Cold compresses can also bring relief.