Chronic Hives in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Chronic hives are long-lasting raised, red, and itchy patches of skin called wheals or welts. This condition is also called chronic urticaria. Hives usually have red borders and pale centres. They range in size from ½ centimetre to 7 centimetres or more across. They may seem to move from place to place on the skin. Several hives may join to form a large area of raised, red skin.

When hives and swelling last more than 6 weeks even with treatment, they are called chronic. A single spot of hives may last less than 36 hours, but the problem may come and go for weeks or months. In most children, the problem often lasts less than 1 year and almost always goes away within 5 years.

Hives may occur with swelling under the skin (called angioedema). But your child may have swelling without hives. Swelling may hurt a bit, but it does not usually itch like hives. It can be dangerous if severe swelling affects your child's throat, but this is very rare.

Your child cannot spread hives to other people.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Avoid whatever you think may have caused your child's hives, such as a certain food or medicine. But you may not know the cause.
  • Put a cool, wet towel on the area to relieve itching.
  • If your doctor says it's okay, give your child an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin), to help calm the itching. Read and follow all instructions on the label. These medicines can make your child feel sleepy.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a shot of epinephrine to carry with you in case your child has a severe reaction. Learn how to give your child the shot, and keep it with you at all times. Make sure it has not expired. If your child is old enough, teach him or her how to give the shot.
  • If your doctor prescribes another medicine, give it to your child exactly as directed.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think your child is having a severe allergic reaction.
  • Your child has symptoms in more than one body area, such as mild nausea and an itchy mouth.

After giving an epinephrine shot call 911, even if your child feels better.

Call 911 if:

  • Your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over his or her body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or your child may feel very light-headed or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
  • Your child has been given an epinephrine shot, even if your child feels better.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • You get hives after you start a new medicine.
  • Hives and swelling get worse, and medicine does not help. Your child may need another type of medicine.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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