I never had hives until last week, but once was enough. I caught myself absentmindedly scratching at what I thought was a mosquito bite, then a couple more. When my whole arm began to itch, I started to think this was weird. When I got a good look, I was sure of it.
Upon taking a more complete inventory I realized that a few mosquito bites would have been preferable to the rapidly spreading red blotches on all my limbs. And the overall itching sensation was spectacular.
I did a search of some medical websites and saw my arms and legs pictured there. Fortunately I found some useful advice. Unfortunately I didn't have any of the suggested remedies in the house.
WebMD.com told me that hives are also known as urticaria, caused by an allergic reaction to some substance, although often people with hives never find out why they happened. I fell into that particular camp.
Hives can show up anywhere. They can be red bumps, or larger plaques or wheals that form when smaller ones join.
Hives are a response to histamine, a chemical that specialized cells release along blood vessels of the skin. Plasma leaks out of small blood vessels in the skin.
Possible causes for the release of histamine are allergic reactions, bug bites, chemicals found in some foods, latex, pet dander and exposure to sunlight.
WebMD.com suggested use of cool compresses and wear clothes that are loose-fitting. If you have a choice between being in a warm environment or a cool one, head for the cool. The website also suggests prescription antihistamines if your hives are chronic or particularly bad. For really severe cases, oral corticosteroids may be recommended.
Mayoclinic.com suggests using an over-the-counter antihistamine to decrease the itching. A cool bath with baking soda, oatmeal (definitely uncooked) or colloidal oatmeal is also recommended. I have a friend who has an allergic reaction to oatmeal, so this particular bath might not be everyone.
That first night was difficult, having to tough it out without being able to use any remedies. But the next day after picking up some calamine and baking soda, things got better.