Hives can be a miserable experience for any child. Those red, itchy lesions can occur independently or they can be a warning sign that heralds impending danger. If your child has hives with wheezing, shortness of breath or throat swelling, call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately, as this represents a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.
For stand-alone cases of hives in children, here are the mainstays of treatment.
1. Identify the triggers: It’s important to seek out the cause of hives to prevent re-exposures. Common triggers include foods, medications, environmental elements, animal dander, psychological stress or infections. Try to keep a log of when the hives occur to help pinpoint any patterns. If your child continues to struggle with recurrent hives, it may be worthwhile to consult with a dermatologist or an allergist for skin testing to identify specific allergens.
2. Antihistamines: These medications help combat the histamine release that encourages the development of hives. There are two types of antihistamines that are traditionally useful when combating this noxious rash.
- First generation antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl). These can be drowse-inducing in some children and activating in others, so use with caution around bedtime.
- Second generation antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), or cetirizine (Zyrtec). These are non-drowsy formulations so they are helpful for daytime relief, especially during the school day.
3. Skin soothers: While helping quiet the hives from the inside with an oral antihistamine, you can attack the itch externally with these remedies. Remember to keep fingernails short to prevent secondary injury from scratching.
- Calamine lotion is an inexpensive way to soothe irritated skin. And, unlike topical steroids, calamine can also be applied liberally without concerns for toxicity from systemic absorption.
- Oatmeal baths can soothe the skin and the spirit. Make sure to use lukewarm water, as hot water can increases skin dryness and promotes further itching.
- Wet-to-dry applications don’t cost a thing and can help quickly. Applying a cool, wet cloth to the affected area and letting the area dry on its own can help stop the itch-scratch cycle.
If the hives are not resolving with these measures, schedule an appointment with a primary care clinician who can prescribe additional medications to calm down a flare.
TapGenes TakeAway: Use these tricks to fight off the itch when your child has hives.
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