Hives in Children: Symptoms, Causes, and Remedies

hives in children

WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW

Hives in children can be worrisome for parents as they may cause kids to become itchy, uncomfortable, and fussy. Also, it’s often hard to determine what is causing your child’s hives. However, hives are common and affect around 20% of people at some point during their life. Below, we have information to help you learn more about what hives are, why they appear, what you can do about them, and when you should call your Pediatrician.

WHAT ARE HIVES?

Hives, also known as urticaria, are rashes in kids that are raised red puffy bumps that can be anywhere from half an inch to a couple of inches wide. They can appear anywhere on the skin, especially on your face and limbs. Hives will also blanch, which means when you press the center of them they turn white.

ARE HIVES CONTAGIOUS?

No. Hives in children are their bodies’ response to an allergic exposure. They are not contagious to others who touch them or are in contact with them. As long as your child is feeling well, it is safe for them to attend school and other activities with hives.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HIVES IN KIDS?

It can be easy to confuse hives for bites or other rashes, but below are some identifying characteristics to help you distinguish hives in your child:

  • They can be different shapes and look like mosquito bites.
  • They can appear all over the body or just on one part of the body.
  • They are usually itchy.
  • They can come and go in different places of the body for a few days or up to a few weeks, even after the causative agent is no longer in contact with the body.

WHAT CAUSES hives in children?

Identifying the cause of hives in kids in the first place may not be an easy task. In fact, in over 50% of all cases, people never find out exactly what caused their hives. We do know that the rash results from a reaction to something that came into contact with the body. When you have such a reaction, your body releases histamines in an effort to defend itself, which leads to swelling and itching. This appears as hives. Some examples of things that might cause hives are: 

Certain foods

Shellfish and nuts are considered high-risk foods for rashes. Only 3% of hives are caused by food, and these rashes usually tend to resolve in a few hours.

Viruses and some bacteria

Common bacterial infections that lead to hives include urinary tract infections and strep throat. Some colds can also cause hives. Hives from infections often will last for several days.

Medications

These medications that cause hives can be prescribed or over the counter. Common culprits are antibiotics and ibuprofen. Many times, rashes that occur after taking antibiotics are actually viral rashes due to the agent that caused the illness and not the antibiotic itself. Tests show an actual allergy to the medication only 10% of the time.

Insect bites

Bee stings are especially notorious for causing hives.

Other allergens

Plants, pollen, dust, or animal dander can also cause hives.

Soaps

If you’ve changed soaps or detergents or used a new scented and colorful bubble bath, these changes could very often be responsible for a breakout of hives on your child’s skin.

Temperature changes

Extreme changes in temperature, such as exposure to cold water or extreme heat, can sometimes cause hives.

Pressure

Pressure on the skin such as from wearing a heavy backpack for a long time can lead to such reactions as well.

Stress

Even stress can cause hives for some people.

Any localized group of hives will be caused by touching an irritant. Hives that come from drugs, infections, or swallowed foods will be all over the body, because these triggers have entered the bloodstream. 

HOME REMEDIES FOR HIVES IN KIDS

Many rashes will go away on their own, often within 24 hours, but there are also several solutions you can try at home to clear hives from your child’s skin. Below are some options:

Identify Triggers

If you can identify what triggers the hives, remove it and avoid it as much as possible. It may help to keep track of when hives occur to pinpoint triggers.

Cool Skin & Use Lotion

Cool baths or rags and lotions like calamine or aloe vera will help calm the skin by reducing redness and swelling.

Wash Irritants Away From Skin

If hives in children result from an external exposure like a plant or soap, wash the skin to reduce the contact the exposure made to your child’s body.

Use An Antihistamine

Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl can help reduce itching and inflammation. (Ask your doctor if this medication will be okay for your child and what the appropriate dose would be.)

Try 1% Hydrocortisone

 If hives in toddlers or kids are localized to one area, you can use over the counter 1% Hydrocortisone cream to reduce the itching and irritation.

Watch Sun Exposure

If hot or cold temperatures or sun exposure cause hive breakouts in your child, make sure to use plenty of sunscreen and protective clothing.

In 80% of children, hives will clear up within two weeks. Sometimes, they continue to come and go for a longer period of time, like months or years. If hives last longer than six weeks, they are considered chronic and might warrant a doctor’s evaluation to figure out a regimen of medications that reduce their frequency of presentation and also keep your child comfortable.

HOW CAN YOU TRY TO DETERMINE THE CAUSE OF HIVES?

If you end up going to your doctor because you are unable to determine the source of your child’s hives and they are not getting better, your doctor will start by asking you several questions. These may include:

  • Location of the hives and how long they last
  • Information about your child’s diet
  • If your child has had an insect bite
  • If your child is around animals, plants, or chemicals that could be triggers
  • What medications your child is taking, their medical history, and if there is any family history of allergies

If the cause of the hives is still unclear, your pediatrician may send you to an allergy clinic. There, specialists will test your child’s blood and skin to determine if they can identify any common allergens that might be responsible for your child’s hives.

HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR CHILD AVOID ALLERGY TRIGGERS?

If you are able to determine a specific food or another allergy trigger for your child, it can be overwhelming for both you as the parent and your child. It may be difficult for your child to understand what is going on with their body. Here are some tips to help your child stay safe and well with an allergy:

  • Explain simply that a food, plant, or animal is not safe for them.
  • Teach them the names of these triggers, explain what they look like, and where they will most often risk running into them. It could be helpful to show your child pictures.
  • If they have a food allergy, teach them to only accept food from adults who understand what they are allowed to eat.
  • Lastly, teach them how to identify an allergic reaction and to go to an adult for help if they are having one. 

Instead of handling your child’s allergy behind the scenes, involve them in the process. For a food allergy, show them how you check labels, prepare safe meals, and bring their medicine when they leave the house. Also teach them how to inform others of their allergy. These steps will help your child feel safe and secure, and allow them to more independently manage their allergy as they get older.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION?

  • If hives are accompanied by wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, or tongue and/or mouth swelling: CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY! These can be symptoms of anaphylaxis, which can be fatal and for which the only treatment is epinephrine. Emergency medical services will have this on hand. This kind of reaction will generally begin within 30 minutes to two hours after exposure to the trigger.
  • It’s okay if hives come and go in waves for a few days until the reaction is over in the body. However, it’s cause for concern if the hives seem to be getting more prominent each time they appear. If they are not entirely disappearing with Benadryl and if it’s been longer than a few days—call your doctor.
  • If you notice that the hives recur with exposures to certain foods or insect bites, please make sure to inform your doctor as this may be an indication of an allergic reaction that will get worse over time.
  • If your child has a fever or joint pain.
  • If your child is under a year of age and has hives all over their body. 

IN CONCLUSION

Hives can certainly be a cause for concern for a parent. Often, they can be easily treated at home. Even if hives are a sign of an allergic reaction, many children outgrow their allergies over time. In rare cases, hives may require urgent medical treatment, so it’s important to be educated on the symptoms of hives in children. When in doubt, call your doctor or contact BabiesMD to find out the best way to care for your child.

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