Understanding Allergies: Children’s Hives Symptoms, Treatments and Causes
Some allergies and allergic reactions show themselves as hives – a red or purple itchy rash that appears on the skin when the body releases histamine in response to a trigger or allergen. Also known as “urticaria”, hives can last from a few minutes to a few weeks, in severe cases; but is often harmless and easily treated at home.1
If your child comes out in hives, it can be a sign that they have an allergy. Learn more about the allergies that cause hives, what the condition looks like, and how to get rid of it, here at Piri Allergy.
What Are Hives?
As an allergic condition affecting the skin, the first thing for parents and guardians to learn is how to spot signs and symptoms of hives on their child.
Depending on skin colour, hives can appear as large pink, red (on lighter complexions) or purple (on brown or black skin) patches, welts, or smaller clusters of raised spots.1 On darker skin tones, sometimes hives can’t be identified by colour but can be seen as swollen bumps. You can also diagnose hives by “blanching” of the skin, which means that when the area is pressed, it turns a different colour before fading back to its original shade.2
They can sometimes look like mosquito bites and can be incredibly itchy or sometimes even sting.3 To ease discomfort, children’s antihistamines can be given to reduce the swelling, redness, and stinging.
Hives can be localised to one area of the body or, in rare cases, can cover the whole body in patches. They can appear anywhere on the skin. Children are particularly likely to suffer from episodes of hives, as are women aged 30-60 years, as well as anyone with a history of allergies themselves or in their family.4
What Causes Hives in Children?
Most often, hives are caused by an allergic reaction. If your child’s immune system detects a threat – even a false one such as an allergen – their body’s cells release histamine and other chemicals to help protect them from serious illness and infection.5 It’s the release of histamine that triggers an episode of hives, which is why antihistamines can be used to calm the rash.
Allergies that commonly cause hives include:5
- Food allergies
- Insect stings
- Pet dander
- Pollen/hay fever
- Reactions to medications
Sometimes there is no allergy behind hives. Other triggers can include:1
- Cold weather, water, or wind
- Getting too hot or sweaty, e.g. from stress, exercise, or eating spicy food
- Scratching or irritating the skin, e.g. from wearing tight or itchy clothes
- Immune system disorders
- In rare cases, water or sunlight
For help diagnosing the trigger causing your child’s hives, speak to your doctor who might order an allergy test. In some cases, even after tests there is no identifiable cause for hives, which is known as idiopathic urticaria.3
How Can You Treat Hives?
When you notice hives appearing on your child’s skin, it can be the sign of an allergy flare-up. Children’s antihistamines can help, such as Piriton Syrup (age 1+) and Piriteze (syrup and tablets suitable for age 6+). You can also use a cold compress to calm the swelling and ease itching.3
If your child’s hives are accompanied by wheezing, tightness in the chest or throat, trouble breathing, or swelling of the tongue, face, or lips, call an ambulance for emergency medical help – this may be a sign of anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction).1
Whatever the trigger, if your child suffers from stubborn episodes that last for an unusually long time or are frequently reoccurring, your doctor might prescribe hives treatments like:1
- Menthol cream
- Steroid tablets
- Stronger antihistamines
- Referral to a dermatologist
How to Prevent Hives
The best prevention is to identify the source or trigger of the hives and avoid it.3 That means avoiding contact with pets or animals if dander causes hives, being aware of food allergy triggers, or trying to stay away from insects in the warmer months.
Sadly, hives can’t always be prevented from appearing – but the good news is that they are easily treatable for most people. Follow our tips above to ease swelling and itchiness when hives rear their head!
- NHS. Hives. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hives/. Accessed 17/02/2022.
- Women’s Health. Hives Don’t Look The Same On All Skin Tones, Here’s How To Identify It On Black Skin. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty/a36096318/hives-on-black-skin/. Accessed 17/02/2022.
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Hives. https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Hives/. Accessed 17/02/2022.
- NHS Inform. Urticaria (hives). https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/skin-hair-and-nails/urticaria-hives. Accessed 17/02/2022.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. HIVES: CAUSES. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/hives-causes. Accessed 17/02/2022.