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Baby Hives Symptoms and 6 Simple Ways to Relief Hives in Children

What do baby hives look like?

Wade 1 year old with baby hives

When a baby has hives the skin is covered with raised pink or red spots with pale centers (wheals). Hives can be extremely itchy and are often mistaken for bug bites.

Very characteristic for a hives rash is that the spots have different shapes which disappear in one area and start in another.

Hives also called Nettle rash or Urticaria (medical name).

Urtica means nettle in Latin. Baby hives can appear anywhere on the body but it mostly affects the trunk, upper arms and upper legs.

We have gathered some pictures of hives on this page for you to see what hives look like.

Hives diagnosis is usually based on the history and body examination.



What causes baby hives?

Unfortunately in most cases no apparent cause can be found, this is called Idiopathic urticaria or unexplained hives

With young infants a milk allergy can be the cause of hives. In this case milk is an allergen that upsets the immune system and triggers an allergic reaction. The attack usual begins within an hour after contact with the allergen.

So what happens exactly? A chemical called histamine is released by the mast cells. This causes fluid leakage of tiny veins in the skin. The build up of this fluid in the skin (oedema) is causing a rash.

Baby hives on the face (angioedema) may cause swelling especially around the eyes and lips.

A lactose intollerance affects the digestive system causing stomach aches and diarrhea.

What does baby hives look like?
Baby hives on belly.
Baby hives on belly


    Hives & allergies

    Other possible causes of an allergic(hives) reaction

  • Foods like seafood (especially shellfish), milk, wheat, nuts or strawberries.
  • Medicine like antibiotics.
  • Insect bites.
  • Food additives, very common with E102, E110, E127, E166, E211, acetyl-salicylic acid and aspartame.
  • Cold urticaria, a reaction to cold temperatures ( a rare condition)
  • Hives viral, due to a viral illness. If baby hives are caused by a viral infection your child likely has other symptoms like coughing, a soar throat or a running nose.


Systemic hives

A child's allergic reaction can be localized, for example when it affects only the skin around an insect bite. But the insect's venom can also provoke a reaction throughout the body (systemic reaction) causing hives.

When it also affects the respiratory and cardiovascular system it will cause a potential life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.

When your child starts looking really ill or has difficulty breathing or swallowing, you should call 911 or take your child straight to the emergency room of your local hospital. At this stage an injection of epinephrine can be life saving for your child.


Toddler hives after sleeping

Sometimes hives seem to become worse during the night and a toddler wakes up covered in hives. There are a few possible causes.

  • Firstly, the toddler may be overheated which will worsen the itching and may scratch the rash in his sleep. Avoid this by keeping the room cool and using fewer blankets.
  • Secondly, the toddler may be allergic to its pajamas, the fabric of the sheets or the detergent you wash them with. You can try to avoid this by changing the washing detergent and experimenting with different materials for pajamas and sheets.
  • Lastly, some insects and bugs in the bedding can cause hives. Especially bed bugs and scabies are known to cause terrible itching during the night. In this case you need to examine your child's bedding for signs of bugs and if necessary take measures to get rid of them.

You may also give an oral antihistamine (Benadryl) before the night, this will relieve the itchiness and help baby sleep.

How long do hives last?

Symptoms of hives in children can last from a few days to 6 weeks and sometimes longer.

facial hives of a little girl
FACIAL HIVES -. Photo by Tessa Mac Donnell
via Photbucket

Hives that last longer than 6 weeks are called chronic hives.

Hives triggered by food usually disappear within a few hours and hives caused by a viral infection can last 3 to 5 days. Chronic hives are rarely caused by an allergy but are most of the time the result of an autoimmune trigger.

Babies have a weaker immune system than adults and are therefore more susceptible to allergies. Breast feeding helps to strengthen the baby's immune system and reduces the chance of allergies.

6 Tips for treating hives in babies

The best treatment is of course to avoid what triggers the hives. Here are some tips about what you can do to relief your baby's hives.

  1. Apply cool compresses or ice for 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Give a cool shower or bath. If the allergen ( pollen or animal dander) is still on the skin it will be removed.
  3. Dress your baby in loose fitting clothes. Heat and sweating can make the hives worse.
  4. Give antihistamine (Benadryl) every 6 hours and continue till 24 hours after the last hives have gone. Remember antihistamine is not a cure for hives but gives relief to it's symptoms.
  5. In more severe cases steroids are needed to treat the episode of hives.

You should call your doctor if the hives do not clear up after a few days of treatment with Benadryl.

Chronic hives

In most cases no cause can be found when children get hives. They may be allergic to something but you may never find out what caused the hives.

hives viral on face and body.
photo credit: jillian werb

When your child gets hives over and over again we call it chronic urticaria and an allergy test may be necessary to see what he or she is allergic to.

Hives are not contagious so your child can normally play with other children.

Also keeping a diary may help to find out what triggers the hives in your child. An allergist or dermatologist may be able to help your peadiatrician to find what causing your child's hives.

Children with cases of chronic hives may find relief using natural and homeopathic methods. Do consult a doctor beforeyou give any kind of homeopathic remedy to children under the age of 12.



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