Prevent Hives

I suffer from chronic hives. Is there anything I can do to prevent them and ease the itch?

It's hard to prevent them if you're prone, but there's a lot you can do to ease the irritation they cause. Hives are itchy pink, red, or white patches that often develop as an allergic reaction to common triggers, such as insect bites and food, and disappear on their own within a few weeks. However, for some people, they become a long-term problem with no identifiable cause.

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To relieve symptoms and stop them from getting worse, relax more. Research shows a potential link between chronic hives and stress, anxiety, and depression. Find a calming practice, like yoga. Or soak in a tub of warm water and cornstarch or colloidal oatmeal, a special nonedible product that will soothe the itch while you unwind.

You can also try visualization-a few sessions with a hypnotherapist or practitioner of guided imagery to help you harness the mind's power to promote healing (visit academyforguidedimagery.com and asch.net/referrals.asp for referrals). A report in the Archives of Dermatology showed that both treatment methods can help reduce the number of hives you develop and relieve itching. If none of these remedies helps, contact your doctor. Occasionally, autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, can trigger chronic hives.

Source: Andrew Weil, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona and director of its Program in Integrative Medicine.

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