If you have experienced a hives outbreak, then you would know that this skin condition can be quite difficult to deal with. First of all, they seem to occur all of a sudden, they can be extremely itchy and the reason for their development is often a mystery.

People who have had a run in with hives usually will manifest very itchy and red rashes that can develop just about anywhere in their body. These rashes often appear during bed time, making it very difficult for the sufferer to get a good night’s sleep. A lot of doctor’s often find it difficult to identify the cause of hives and they usually prescribe antihistamine drugs to mitigate the symptoms.

Hives, which is also called urticaria, is a condition that is connected with an allergic reaction. It usually can last for a considerable period of time; if your hives is chronic, it may last for about a couple of months. An acute form of this condition they can last no more than six weeks to two months. Hives arise as a result of histamine being released from a person’s cells. This causes the formation of wheals that can vary in size from about 1.5cm to as big as a Frisbee.

In rare occurrences, anaphylaxis, which is a potentially deadly allergic reaction, may strike a person. Anaphylaxis can occur when a histamine reaction results in the dilation of the blood vessels causing the sudden drop of a person’s blood pressure. In addition to that, asthma-like symptoms such as the constriction of throat and lung airways can occur. When this happens, the person suffering from anaphylaxis should immediately be brought to a hospital for immediate medical treatment.

Utricaria or hives, in traditional Chinese medicine is seen as case of wind rash. For traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners, wind is a pathogenic factor that arises as a result of movement where there should be none. Essentially, urticaria has very wind-like characteristics. They can change with great speed, move around the body and oftentimes, come and go.

Besides being related to wind, hives according to TCM, can be either cold or warm. They can be exacerbated by heat which is associated with redness and warmth. However, there are cases when the hives symptoms deteriorate in cold weather. Usually these hives look pale in color and are alleviated with applications of heat.

In TCM, the body’s weak exterior can often make the person susceptible to hives. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe that a person’s body is enwrapped in a “protective bubble.” This is his body’s exterior and functions sort of like the immune system protecting the body from conditions such as allergies, flu and colds among other things. If this bubble is weakened, the body becomes prone to being infected with pathogens that can cause allergies, flu and cold as well as certain skin conditions.

More often than not, western physicians prescribe antihistamine medications for urticaria. In contrast, a TCM practitioner may use a combination of ear acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and body acupuncture to address this condition. Oftentimes, for hives treatment, acupuncturists may target the acupuncture points ST 36, LI 11, SP 6 and SP 10. Your acupuncturist will select the points to be needled based on the nature of your hives (whether it due to a combination of cold and wind or wind and heat); for certain symptoms, additional acupoints may also be treated.

Below are certain tips you can avail of to help resolve itching related to hives:

-Try to avoid things that you might suspect to be triggers for an allergic reaction. This may include sudden drops or rises in temperature, certain foods or even exercise. They can result in itching and a possibility of hives development.

-Take a cold shower or bath or use a cold compress. When cold is applied on your skin, your blood vessels constrict and this lessens the levels of histamine in your blood. This is often effective even if your TCM diagnosis of rash is wind-cold; but, if your hives is triggered by cold, this tip will not work for you.

– Use topical products to relieve the itching. You can try witch hazel, milk of magnesia (being alkaline-based, it can help quell the itch) and/or calamine lotion. You can turn these products cold by refrigerating them to help cool the skin.

-Drink tea to calm yourself. In a lot of instances, an outbreak of hives is exacerbated or the result of very stressful experiences. If this is the case, drink some cup of herbal tea. A cup of passion flower, peppermint, chamomile or chrysanthemum can help.

– Try bathing in colloidal oatmeal. You can try products from Aveeno. They are readily available in most drug stores. A bath of lukewarm to cool water mixed with oatmeal can alleviate the itching.

Dominic Sembello is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist and the clinical director of Health Source Acupuncture in Linwood, NJ.